Port Elizabeth - Three young Port Elizabeth rugby players
will receive a golden opportunity to further their burgeoning careers when they
sign up with the SARU Kings Rugby Academy on Tuesday, February 26.
The three Linkside High pupils - flyhalf Thabo Matiso, 16,
lock Hussayn Banzi, 15, and flank Lubabalo Ndamase, 15 - have been identified
as having the potential to do well in the game and they form part of the Kings
Academy's ongoing objective of developing local talent.
Matiso began his rugby career at Ithembelihle, Banzi went to
St Thomas and Ndamase attended Newell High.
The trio have received support from Linkside High in terms
of their uniforms and stationery, and all they need to purchase are their
tablets and e-books.
Under the tutelage of Linkside-Ithembelihle coach Theo
Pieterse, Banzi and Ndamase will play for the Linkside Under-16 team this year,
while Matiso will play for a combined Linkside-Ithembelihle first XV as
Linkside do not have enough players for a full first team.
Pieterse, who has over three decades' experience of coaching
and developing local talent, will be in charge of their programmes, with
assistance from Kings Academy head Rob Kempson and his coaching team.
The Kings Academy plays a crucial role in preparing young
players for the rigours and challenges of senior rugby. Fruits of their efforts
were shown in 2015 when the EP Kings Under-19 team were crowned national A Division
Furthermore, a number of players who have come through the
Academy ranks have been signed up for the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise,
including EP Under-19 stars from last year, No 8 Junior Pokomela and scrumhalf
Others who have come through the Academy system and will be
keen to make their mark at the next level, having been contracted by the
Southern Kings, include fullback Malcolm Jaer, who played for the SA Under-20
side last year, flanks CJ Velleman, Thembelani Bholi and Stefan Willemse,
lock/flank Tyler Paul, No 8 Aidon Davis and centre/flyhalf Shane Gates. Of
those, the eldest is Bholi, aged 25.
"We are delighted to have these promising young players
on board and we will do everything we can to assist them to reach their full
potential," Kempson said. "We hope that players who have gone before
them such as Malcolm (Jaer), Junior (Pokomela) and James (Hall) will provide an
inspiration for what can be achieved through our structures at the Kings
Pieterse said the players would receive exposure in many
tournaments this year, including the popular Grey High Festival, which will be
played at the end of April-early May.
The coach is also hoping to build on the talent which exists
in Nelson Mandela Bay's townships to ensure they receive every opportunity to
realise their potential.
"I am looking at about 10 more very talented players
from the townships to link up with Linkside High," Pieterse said.
"Most of them are still Under-16 and Under-17, but this will enable
Linkside High to develop a team which can be competitive in first league rugby
in the next two years.
"At the end of the year, I will take an Under-17 team from
the townships to the annual KZN development tournament and there I will be able
to identify more talent to bring to Linkside High."
At the Kings Academy signing of three Linkside High School
pupils on Wednesday, January 26, at Linkside High were (from left): Academy head Rob Kempson, Lubabalo Ndamase,
Thabo Matiso, Hussayn Banzi and Academy analyst Zuko Ndlela (Picture: OLGA WILLIAMS)