South African rugby’s professional family is rallying around the Southern Kings’s introduction to the Pro14, with the Sharks and Bulls the latest to offload players on loan to the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.
The Kings, along with the Cheetahs, will be the first ever Southern Hemisphere teams to play in a Northern Hemisphere competition, but confirmation of the Kings’s future playing plans came only after 15 of the 2017 Super Rugby squad had sought contracts elsewhere.
It has required Kings coach Deon Davids to seek assistance from other South African professional provinces and franchises about player availability. The response has shown the growing maturity within South Africa’s professional ranks as rival franchises embrace the need for the Kings to be competitive in their debut season.
The Cheetahs haven’t suffered similar losses from their Super Rugby squad but SA Rugby’s bosses have also emphasised the same principle would apply should the depth of the Cheetahs be challenged in the course of the tournament.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez released four of his players, including the talented utility back S’Bura Sithole, loose-forward Khaya Majola, scrumhalf Rowan Gouws, utility back S’bura Sithole and hooker Stephan Coetzee and the Bulls also confirmed the loan of four players, in addition to the two on loan during the recently completed Super Rugby series.
The Bulls quartet are: Props Martin Dreyer and Njabulo Gumede, hooker Alandre van Rooyen and lock forward Freddy Ngoza will join the Southern Kings with immediate effect.
All will move for the duration of the tournament, although the BBC could call Gumede back if needed.
Current Blue Bulls players Dayan van der Westhuizen and Irne Herbst were among those loaned to the Southern Kings during the Super Rugby tournament.
BBC High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, said: ‘This decision will not only benefit the Kings, but SA Rugby as well and will of course give our players good exposure in a different environment and competition. We contracted all of them in the first place because we value their abilities, but can also not ignore the needs of the players and the bigger picture in SA Rugby.’
Dreyer has played Super Rugby for the Bulls and Stormers, while Gumede is a former Junior Springboks prop. Van Rooyen and Ngoza played for the Blue Bulls in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
Southern Kings’ PRO14 squad (more players expected to be added):
Berton Klaasen, Bobby de Wee, CJ Velleman, Cornal Hendricks, Dries van Schalkwyk, Jacques Nel, Jarryd Sage, Khaya Majola, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Lusanda Badiyana, Masixole Banda, Ntabeni Dukisa, Oliver Zono, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Rowan Gouws, S’bura Sithole, Schalk Ferreira, Stephan Greeff, Stephan Coetzee, Tango Balekile, Tienie Burger, Victor Sekekete, Yaw Penxe, Kurt Coleman, Martin Dreyer, Njabulo Gumede, Alandre van Rooyen, Freddy Ngoza