Born in Middelburg (Eastern Cape) on August 5, 1984, the 31-year-old Steven Robert Sykes will play his 100th Currie Cup game when the EP Kings take on Griqualand West at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (September 26).
Sykes attended Cradock Primary School and Marlow Agricultural, and represented EP at various age-group levels, including the EP U13 team in 1997 and the EP Craven Week team in 2002.
In 2003, Sykes linked up with the Sharks Academy in Durban and that year he also represented South Africa at the World U19 Championship.
Playing lock, he made his first class debut for the Natal Wildebeest during the 2005 Vodacom Cup competition, coming on as an early substitute in a 43-0 victory over Border in Durban. He started their next match against the Pumas in Witbank and remained in the starting line-up for the remainder of the competition.
He made his Currie Cup debut for the Sharks in a qualification round match against Eastern Province in 2005, coming off the bench. The Natal Sharks topped their section to qualify for the Premier Division and Sykes was once again involved, making his first Currie Cup start in the first match of the Premier Division and scoring a try after just 25 minutes to help the Sharks to a 55-17 victory over the Leopards.
In 2007, Sykes made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks against the Bulls – the Sharks won 17-3 – and played in their first three matches of the season. However, Johan Ackermann returned for the remainder of the competition and Sykes made five starts for the Wildebeest in the Vodacom Cup and 14 appearances in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
He made eight appearances for the Sharks Super Rugby side in 2008 and scored his first Super Rugby try in a 47-25 victory over the Chiefs. He remained a key player for the Sharks in the Currie Cup, starting the final against the Bulls, which the Sharks won 14-9.
He scored four tries for the Sharks in the 2009 Super Rugby season and was then involved in several matches against the 2009 British and Irish Lions touring side. Firstly, he played for the Sharks in the Lions’ fourth tour match. He also featured in a match between the Lions and an Emerging Springboks side in Cape Town (13-13 draw) and was called into the Springbok squad for the third test, but remained an unused substitute as the Lions ran out 28-9 winners.
Sykes made a further 13 appearances for the Sharks in the 2010 Super Rugby season and helped the Sharks to the Currie Cup title with a 30-10 win over Western Province in Durban.
After seven-and-a-half years in Durban, Sykes signed a three-year contract with Irish side Leinster. However, he made just four appearances for the Dublin-based side before returning to South Africa.
He returned to the Sharks, signing for them on a one-year contract in 2012 before joining the Southern Kings for their debut season in Super Rugby in 2013. He made his debut for the Kings in their historic first-ever Super Rugby match, helping them to a 22-10 victory against the Force in Port Elizabeth.
He played for the EP Kings Currie Cup team in 2013, when EP reached the First Division final, and 2014, when they were promoted to the Premier Division.
He was loaned to the Cheetahs for the 2015 Super Rugby season. Sykes has scored 21 tries during his first-class career.
Anthony Johnson, Managing Director of World Artists, who act as the rugby star’s agent, paid tribute to Sykes for his achievement.
“Steven joined World Artists in June 2005 three months before I started with the company. It is quite fitting that he now celebrates his 100th Currie Cup cap in the same season as we share our 10 years with World Artists. I have always enjoyed a good working relationship with Steven and have appreciated his loyalty over the years. Congrats on your 100th cap Steven from all of us at World Artists” Said Managing Director, Anthony Johnson.