Steven Sykes, Andries Strauss and Demetri Catrakilis will be running out onto the field for the Southern Kings next year, after their signings were confirmed by EP president Cheeky Watson at a press conference yesterday.
Watson, who said the Kings had a budget of about R40-million for player recruitment, said they had hoped to announce additional player signings, but due to technicalities with contracts had been unable to do so.Watson said they hoped to be in a position to name about five new signings next week.
Although Watson was tight lipped, it is believed that former Springbok forward Danie Rossouw, who now plays for Suntory in Japan, and star Lions fullback Jaco Taute could be on the shopping list.
Watson said that the Kings were looking at contracting 12 players from the current EP squad to play Super Rugby.
“That figure changes because we have tough Currie Cup matches coming up and the door is open for a guy to perform under pressure situations.
“This is just the beginning of our recruitment drive. Because the franchise was announced late there are tremendous challenges involved in finding the players needed to put a competitive team on the field next year,” he said.
Watson said the Kings were looking at finding players for strategic positions and he was delighted to have signed Sykes, Strauss and Catrakilis.
Sykes, who plays at Lock, began his career with the Natal Sharks in 2005 and also played for the Sharks Super Rugby team from 2007.
Starting in the 2011/12 season, he signed a three year deal to play with Leinster in the RaboDirect Pro12 and the Heineken Cup. However, he was released from the deal after only 4 appearances and returned on a one year contract with Sharks.
He was also a part of the Springboks team and played for them during their 13–13 draw against the British and Irish Lions on their 2009 tour to South Africa.
Strauss, who plays at Centre, also started his professional career playing for the Sharks in the Super Rugby. In August 2010, he signed a deal with the Cheetahs for the 2011 Super 15 season, due to the departure of Cheetahs centre Meyer Bosman.
In November 2010, after an injury to stand in fullback and centre Zane Kirchner, Strauss received a call up to play for the Springboks to face a star studded Barbarians side at Twickenham.
Catrakilis, who plays at Flyhalf, started his professional rugby career after an extremely successful Varsity Cup, when he was drafted into the Western Province Vodacom Cup team for the Quarter Final loss to the Sharks XV in 2011.
Since he never appeared for the Stormers in Super Rugby, he continued his Vodacom Cup career in 2012 with a number of phenomenal performances for the eventual champions Western Province. He finished second on the top-point scorer’s list on 127 points for the 2012 season with WP unbeaten.
In the 2011 Currie Cup, Catrakilis scored 150 points with the boot at 84.21% conversion rate, as well as winning the ABSA Currie Cup Player of the Month for August after playing a vital part in guiding Western Province into the Semi-Finals.
“Catrakilis has had a very good Currie Cup season so far and played a pivotal role for Western Province and I think he can add tremendous value for this region,” said Watson.
“Strauss is a strong and physical backline player while Sykes, who comes from Cradock, will be coming home. We were very excited to sign him because the Kings want to bring players back home,” Watson said.