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South Africa?s rugby league authorities will look to emulate the success of Australia?s ?Socceroos? by establishing a base for its leading players in the UK, in a joint initiative with 1895 International.
The focus of this ground-breaking venture will be the South Africa Wild Dogs, a representative side m ade up of European-based South African players, who will base themselves at New River Stadium home, home of National League Two side London Skolars.
There are already a number of South African players plying their trade in England in National Leagues Two and Three, as well as former national captain Jamie Bloem (Halifax) and 2000 World Cup representative Sean Ruttgerson (Salford). However, the SARL plan to add to this talent pool by targeting the many South African rugby union players currently in the UK, as well as attempting to place a number of the outstanding young talent from its domestic rugby league competition with National League clubs.
SARL chairman Anthony Cooper explained: ?It?s in the interests of our national side to allow our best young players to develop in a professional environment and compete at the highest level possible, and placing players in the UK provides us with the best possible opportunity to do that.
?The Wild Dogs concept is vital to our overall development plan as it allows our leading overseas players to train together and play together on a regular basis, and this will enhance the prospects of our national side ? the Rhinos ? massively as we prepare for the likelihood of a qualifying tournament for the 2008 World Cup.?
The Wild Dogs? ranks are likely to be bolstered significantly throughout 2004, as 1895 International looks to place leading South African players with National League clubs ? a task which will be made easier following the introduction of the KOLPAK ruling ? and the SARL see this move as a key component of their development strategy.
?The benefits to us of exposing our best young players to high level competition in the UK are obvious,? continued Cooper. ?But there is also an excellent opportunity for ambitious clubs in the UK to access an untapped talent pool ? particularly as our players no longer count on the overseas quota.
?We?re grateful for the support of 1895 International in this initiative and see this as the start of a successful relationship.?
In the meantime, the SARL are looking for UK-based support staff for the Wild Dogs, including a team manager, as well as eligible players. The SARL are being represented in the UK by 1895 International chairman Lionel Hurst and all interested applicants have been asked to contact him directly (01242 233371) sending a CV to [email protected]