EP Kings CEO, Charl Crous confirmed that Michael van Vuuren, Tim Whitehead and Hansie Graaff will all be joining the Kings over the coming months, along with Izak van der Westhuizen whose signing has already been announced. “We are very excited at these signings and are positive that these players will make a significant contribution in our Currie Cup endeavours as well as in our preparations for re-entry into Super Rugby in 2016,” said Crous.
Hooker Van Vuuren, who matriculated in 2009 from Grey High School in Port Elizabeth, will return home from France, where he has been playing for Stade Francais in the French Top 14, when his contract with them ends in June. “I had a couple of options overseas which I had a good long hard look at, but when the Kings opportunity came along, I jumped at the offer. I felt that the time was right to come home.
“The Kings are a franchise with a tremendous desire to succeed and this was clearly apparent in their Super 15 campaign. Along with my team mates, helping my ‘home’ province reach great heights will be fantastic,” Van Vuuren said. After representing EP at Craven Week, Van Vuuren rose to prominence when he played for the South African Under-20 team in 2011.
Van Vuuren played in the Grey 1st XV in 2008 and 2009, alongside Springbok Siya Kolisi who is also an Old Grey. Van Vuuren has also played Varsity Cup rugby for UFS Shimlas in the 2012 Varsity Cup. He represented the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup in 2011 and 2012 seasons. At the age of 19 Van Vuuren made history at the Cheetahs when he became the youngest hooker to make his Currie Cup debut for the Cheetahs against the Leopards.
Versatile Sharks centre, Whitehead, will also be returning home to take up the Red and Black hoops. Whitehead was born in Port Elizabeth and, like Van Vuuren, attended Grey High before studying at the University of Cape Town and then playing Super Rugby for the Stormers and Sharks. While at Grey, Whitehead partnered explosive Springbok and Bulls star JJ Engelbrecht at centre.
He will be joined by fellow Sharks player, Graaff, who can play as a flyhalf, centre, wing or fullback. Graaff, who originally hails from Pretoria, rose to prominence playing for a struggling TUT Vikings side in the Varsity Cup between 2010 and 2012 before joining the Griffons in 2012. He quickly establishing himself as a first-team regular and made several appearances for them in the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup, earning the title of Currie Cup First Division player of the year in 2012.
He was then included in the final Cheetahs squad for the 2013 Super Rugby season, but failed to make any appearances for them. He subsequently moved to the Sharks for the Currie Cup Premier Division last year, but missed the entire competition because of a knee injury.
Now fit, Graaff will join the Kings when his contract with the Sharks ends in April.