By George Byron
A SCENTED candle was burning brightly on rugby boss Cheeky Watson’s table when he named his latest recruits for the Southern Kings.
Whether it will be burning quite so brightly for the flamboyant Kings chairman after his team have completed their programme of Super Rugby matches next year remains to be seen.
But, for the time being, there is a noticeable mood of unbridled optimism sweeping through the offices of the Kings as they prepare for their Super debut.
The Kings chairman was in an upbeat mood when he announced that Argentine scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo, Auckland Blues utility back Hadleigh Parkes and Golden Lions hooker Bandise Maku would be arriving in Port Elizabeth at the end of the October.
Sitting at Watson’s side was Kings chief executive officer Anele Pamba, who was just as bullish as his chairman when the names of the new signings were revealed.
The Kings say they have a war chest of R40m for recruitment and chief executive officer Anele Pamba says there is still money left in the pot for additional signings.
Pamba said they had dealt with the six new signings in a “lean way” so they still had some cash to splash on some more “big name “signings.
In September, the Kings confirmed the signing of three high-profile South Africans – Andries Strauss (Cheetahs), Steven Sykes (Sharks) and Demetri Catrakilis (Western Province).
Pamba said fans could expect another six to ten signings and he hinted that a current Springbok backline player was in the Kings’ sights as their next major signing.
“We are busy negotiating with this Springbok and I cannot say any more at this stage,” said a tight-lipped Pamba.
The Kings play the first match against Australia’s Western Force in Port Elizabeth on February 23.
“All our new signings will be in Port Elizabeth on October 19 when we will introduce them to rugby fans in the Bay,” said Pamba.
“The players will then have a break before having their first training session on November 18.”
Watson is hoping to name another five to six signings, provided all the contractual details are tied up. “At this stage we are meeting all the deadlines that we set for ourselves after it was confirmed that we would be playing Super Rugby.
“Maku is from this region and was born in King William’s Town so we are happy he is coming home and I think he will play the best rugby of his career at the Kings,” said Watson.
“Vergallo is a player who has played at the highest level for Argentina and I have no doubt he will do very well next year. Parkes is a versatile utility back and will bolster our team.”
There can be little doubt that New Zealander Matt Sexton, a former Canterbury Crusaders player and Kings head coach, must have played some part in the decision to sign up Parkes along with the Kings’ director of rugby Alan Solomons .
For the Blues this year, Parkes was used on the wing and at fullback, and it was thought neither of these positions suited his game. At Auckland, Parkes only played at centre – and it is said he looked a much more accomplished player.
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, October 6, 2012.