South Africa

Catrakilis justifies Kings' existence

Wed, 22 May 2013 11:58
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These youngsters have stepped up to the challenge
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The Southern Kings may already have four Springboks in their ranks, but Demetri Catrakilis is the gem that justifies their existence as a Super Rugby franchise.

The Kings' 23-year-old flyhalf, Catrakilis, is one of eight newcomers called up to the Bok squad that will gather in Durban on Sunday for a training camp.

While he will have to wait a while longer to see if he will become the first player to be formally elevated to the Bok team and earn a Test cap from within the Kings' ranks, Catrakilis has made a serious statement on behalf of the franchise.

Cheeky Watson, President of the Eastern Province Rugby Union and Chairman of the Kings board, said Catrakilis' call up was a testament to what was being accomplished by the new Southern Kings franchise.

Unwanted by the Stormers, despite helping Western Province to their first Currie Cup title in 11 years last year, Catrikilis headed to the Eastern Cape.

Having featured in all 11 games for the Kings this season, he produced a string of impressive performances and on Wednesday was rewarded with a call-up to the Bok training squad.

"This is just another example of how players, who may previously not have been afforded the opportunity to play at Super Rugby level, have shown the world what they can do through the Southern Kings," Watson said.

"These youngsters have stepped up to the challenge and have outperformed even our wildest expectations," he added.

Southern Kings Director of Rugby Alan Solomons said he was immensely proud of Catrakilis' call-up to the squad.

"Demetri has really played fantastic this season and fully deserves getting the recognition for his contribution that he has made," he said.

The Kings' Boks all earned their national colours while representing other franchises - hooker Bandise Maku (was with the Bulls in 2010 when he got his only  Test cap), Waylon Murray (three caps, 2007 - Sharks), Andries Strauss (uncapped, played a midweek match on the year-end tour in 2010) and Luke Watson (10 caps, 2007 and 2008 - Stormers).

Catrikilis, who was also a very talented footballer and had a year with top SA team Moroka Swallows before choosing Rugby Union over football, was selected for an Invitational South Africa team that played in the Brazil Cup in 2005.

Schooled at St John's College in Johannesburg, where he played for the first XV as a 15-year-old and then went on to captain the first team in his final school year, he also represented the Golden Lions Under-18 team in the Academy Week and was then chosen to represent the Golden Lions Under-19 team.

Following the season with the Golden Lions Under-19 team, Catrikilis was spotted by French Top 14 team Racing Metro, where he enjoyed a brief stint with the Under-23 squad before returning back home to South Africa.

He had a very successful season with the False Bay club in Cape Town's Super League, where he was spotted by University of Cape Town scouts and played for the Ikey Tigers during the 2011 Varsity Cup - when the Cape Town students won the tournament.

Despite those successes, he never progressed past the WP Currie Cup team and opted to move to Port Elizabeth this year to further his career.

Catrakilis became the first South African in seven years to exceed 100 points in his Super Rugby debut during the game against the Highlanders, and currently boasts 107 points - ranking as the ninth highest point scorer in the overall competition.

He joins just three other fellow South Africans - Morné Steyn (163 points), Pat Lambie (139 points) and Joe Pietersen (125) - in the centurion club for the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Last year's Vodacom Cup Player of the Year, follows in the footsteps of the Stormers' Peter Grant - who reached 100 points in his debut Super Rugby season in 2006, while Steyn did it in his debut playing for the Bulls in 2005.

Six more South Africans have reached 100 points in their first season of Super Rugby – four of them in 1996.

They are Jannie Kruger (Northern Transvaal), Henry Honiball (Natal), Joel Stransky (WP), Gavin Lawless (Transvaal) and André Joubert.

In 2001 Andrew James scored 100 points for the Sharks in his first season.

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