Five players who have their roots in the Southern Cape, which includes the very promising Tango Balekile and the experienced Lionel Cronje, have been drafted into the Southern Kings’ squad for next season’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
The 20-year-old Balekile, a mobile hooker and product of Selborne College in East London, represented South Africa at the World Rugby’s Under-20 Championship in England this year, after which he played for Eastern Province in SA Rugby’s U21 Provincial Champs.
After representing Border at U16 and U18 levels from 2012 to 2014, Balekile moved to the EP Academy and earlier this season he got his first taste of senior rugby in the Currie Cup qualifiers.
Cronje, from Queen’s College in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, will bring invaluable experience to the Southern Kings’ backline, predominantly from flyhalf. He has gained Vodacom Super Rugby experience for the DHL Stormers, Cell C Sharks and the Brumbies.
This former Junior Springbok was named the Vodacom Cup Player of the Year in 2011 when he played for DHL Western Province. Apart from stints in Cape Town, Durban and Canberra, Cronje has also played senior rugby for the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Xerox Golden Lions.
Deon Davids, head coach of the Southern Kings, said: “We’ve been watching Tango with a keen interest this year and we know he’s ready to make the step up to the next level. It’s great that he’s decided to stay in Port Elizabeth.
“We have many promising youngsters in our squad, which makes the addition of Lionel very important, as he’ll bring experience and a cool head to a very important position in the backline.”
Furthermore, four players will be on loan with the Southern Kings in 2017. They are Ntabeni Dukisa from Border, as well as the Griquas trio of Mzwanele Zito, Alshaun Bock and Rudi (Poerie) van Rooyen.
Dukisa is an outside back who hails from Border, but who spent two seasons with Eastern Province before moving to Griquas, where he played for the last two years.
Zito, a lock who can also play blindside flanker, represented Eastern Province at the U18 Academy Week in 2006 and later again in 2013, when he also played Varsity Cup for the Madibaz, is back in Port Elizabeth after playing his rugby for SWD and Griquas the last four seasons.
Bock, a former Blitzbok and SA U21 wing who has more than 100 first class tries next to his name, has been a stalwart for the Eagles and Griquas in recent years, and also played for the SA President’s XV in the Tbilisi Cup in 2013.
Van Rooyen came through the junior ranks at the Blue Bulls before moving to Griquas, where he has been one of their scrumhalf options since 2014.
“All four these players have experience at senior provincial level throughout South Africa and it’s great to have them available for the Kings next year,” said Davids.
Davids said two more players from the EP Academy have been invited to train with the Southern Kings’ extended squad and still have a great opportunity to claim places in the final squad. They are Lusanda Badiyana (flank) and David Murray (prop).
“We are moving closer to finalising our squad, but it’s a long process and we don’t want to leave any stone unturned before we make the final calls,” said Davids.
“The players who are on trial with us, are still in the running for the remaining positions and we’re very keen to see what they can offer before finalising the squad.”
“It is really great to have so many players who have their roots from, or who have represented, the unions of this region return and form part of our squad,” said Davids.
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