Despite no longer being part of Super Rugby, the Eastern Province Kings have still managed to secure some of the best local schoolboy talent for next year. Ludumo Nkabi takes a closer look at the future Kings…
There is no denying the past six months have been tough for the Eastern Province Kings as a union, from failing to retain a number of players after being relegated from Super Rugby right through to severe financial loss and ultimately failing to defend their Currie Cup First Division title. Through all of this, there have been great positives in the junior structures. None more so than with the Eastern Province U19s who deservedly beat Border 27-20 in the U19 promotion-relegation game to earn promotion to the U19 Premier Division for the 2014 season. The win will hopefully bring back a sense of belief among a group of dejected supporters reflected in the dwindling numbers at the games from Super Rugby to Currie Cup.
The Kings Academy is quite upbeat about next year as they have contracted a strong group of 21 U18 schoolboys for next year’s competition; the group primarily consists of Eastern Cape talent with only 2 players from outside the province. Matthew Jackson is a tighthead prop who captained the Westville 1st rugby team in KZN; he’s a big man who tips the scale at 123kgs. Luke Houba is a scrumhalf who was one of the influential players for the Rondebosch 1st XV in Cape Town and both he and Jackson will bring a new dimension to an already close group of Eastern Cape boys.
Grey High School in Port Elizabeth had the top 1st XV in the Eastern Cape as they went through the season unbeaten. Five boys from that 1st XV will join the academy, namely Gerrit Huisamen, Bathandwa Cafu, ThabaniMgugudo, Nick Beswick and CJ Velleman. Gerrit and Bathandwa featured for this year’s U19 side already and will bring good experience next year. Cyril-John Velleman is a very highly rated openside flanker and is technically one of the best schoolboy fetchers I have seen in years. His work rate and leadership are exceptional and I rate he was a dead certainty for SA Schools this year, but he got injured in the 1st game at Craven Week against Free State and missed the rest of the week.
The school with the second most boys is St Andrew’s College of Grahamstown. The private school had a good 1st XV this year and it was reflected in the Craven Week side with seven out of the 22 being scholars of St Andrew’s College, four of those boys will continue their rugby at the Kings next year. David Murray, Tyler Paul and Jason Baggott have already represented Eastern Province U19s. Eastern Province Country Districts Craven Week captain Sintu Manjezi who formed a dynamic lock pairing Tyler Paul, is the fourth Andrean, he boasts a good skill-set and is a dominant figure in the lineouts. Using all 1.95m to good effect, he’s mobile and is an extra loose forward around the park.
There’s a school that’s flown under the radar this year which had a very good season, Cambridge High School have three lads coming to the Academy. Thembelihle Yase is a mobile loosehead prop who enjoyed a solid season for his school. He will be joined by Kweku Borsah, another mobile lock who could easily slot in at blindside, he has a really good work rate and has exceptional pace for a forward. Jason Reinecke had an impressive Craven Week at hooker for Border, although he played loose forward for his school, he will be primarily utilized at hooker for the Kings. Dale College adds to an already impressive contingent of Dalians at the Academy with two more loose forwards joining from Dale College. Qhama Mvimbi and Mihlali Nchukana played in the same loose trio and look to continue in the red and black hoops which are the traditional colours of Dale as well.
The numbers game comes to an end with the rest of the boys being the sole representatives of their schools. Luan Nieuwoudt is a player I’ve enjoyed since I watched him as an U16 for Eastern Province; he’s a player with massive potential and I look forward to following his progress. Somila Jho (older brother Ace Jho also at the Kings) is another very talented centre, great step and deceptive player, he has good pace as well.
Jason Vers captained Union High 1st XV this year and played Craven Week for Eastern Province at flyhalf. He varies his game really well and has a good tactical game, he’s got a natural attacking flair and is a headache for opposition defences when he’s on his game. Justin Hollis is another brilliant loose forward from Queen’s College, he can play at blindside or 8th man. His strength is unbelievable and he is dominant at the contact point. He’s a really good ball carrier and has a massive work rate on the park. He’ll thrive in the Kings setup. Malcolm Jaer is the only player to have represented SA U18 this year in this group; the hot stepping fullback who can slot in at flyhalf had a brilliant Craven Week for Eastern Province and the SA School’s cap was reward for excellent performances. He’ll be one of the leaders in the squad
By Ludumo Nkabi – follow on twitter @ludz19
(* represents Craven Week players)
Kings Academy U19 probable intake for 2014:
Props: Thembelihle Yase (Cambridge High School), David Murray*(St Andrew’s College), Matthew Jackson (Westville High School)
Hookers: Jason Reinecke* (Cambridge High School)
Locks: Tyler Paul* (St Andrew’s College), Sintu Manjezi* (St Andrew’s College), Gerrit Huisamen (Grey High School, PE),Kweku Borsah (Cambridge High School)
Loose Forwards: Mihlali Nchukana* (Dale College), QhamaMvimbi (Dale College), Cyril-John Velleman* (Grey High School, PE), Bathandwa Cafu* (Grey High School, PE), Justin Hollis* (Queen’s College)
Scrumhalves: Luke Houba (Rondebosch High School), Nick Beswick (Grey High School, PE), Jason Baggott* (St Andrew’s College)
Flyhalves: Jason Vers* (Union High School)
Centres: Luan Nieuwoudt* (Nico Malan), Somila Jho* (Kingswood College)
Outside Backs: Thabani Mgugudo* (Grey High School, PE), Malcolm Jaer* (Die Brandwag)
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