DESPITE frantic efforts by the big guns of South African rugby to lure try-scoring rugby sensation Sergeal Petersen away from the Eastern Cape, the teenage star has decided to become an EP King.
It was announced yesterday that the star SA Schools, EP Craven Week and Grey High wing had signed a three-year deal to join the EP Kings Academy despite efforts by the Blue Bulls, Sharks and Western Province to acquire his services.
"I am very excited to have signed to play at the Kings Academy," Petersen said yesterday. "This will enable me to stay close to my home in Jeffreys Bay. Now that the Kings are also in Super Rugby, it will be an exciting time."
Asked why he had opted to sign for the Kings, he said: "It was a good offer and I wanted to stay here."
The signing of Petersen comes at a time when some fingers have been pointed at the EP Rugby Union (EPRU) for a lack of transformation and a failure to sign local players.
Some have already gone as far as suggesting that the extravagantly talented 18-year-old Petersen could become the next Danie Gerber of South African rugby.
Former Springbok star Robbi Kempson, manager of the EP Academy, said Petersen was a mix of the great Gerber and the mercurial Carel du Plessis, who was known as the "Prince of Wings".
The Grey High flyer was the big star in the SA Schools team this month when he impressed against England, Wales and France.
"This is a massive coup for the EP Academy. Sergeal is an amazing talent and one of the best young players I have seen," Kempson said.
"There was a long queue to sign Sergeal and the Bulls were right at the front of it. Western Province were also interested and they don't fish in these waters very often.
"Three years ago, before EP had an academy, Petersen would have already left PE and been placed in a school in Pretoria by the Bulls.
"Sergeal is a very classy player with great vision and electric pace. He can step off both feet and is already a very rare talent," Kempson, who played 37 tests for the Springboks, said.
Petersen was the outstanding wing at the recent Coca-Cola Craven Week in Port Elizabeth, which earned him a berth in the SA Schools team.
Former EP Kings and Cheetahs star Rory Duncan, Petersen's coach at Grey High, said he was delighted that a player of his calibre would not be lost to the region.
"It is wonderful that Sergeal will be attending the EP Kings Academy," he said.
Grey High director of sport Neil Bielby was equally pleased that Petersen was staying in Port Elizabeth.
Kempson, who has the task of breeding EP's stars of the future, said: "Sergeal will be with us until he is 21, but when you are dealing with such a talent, it is likely that he will move up the ranks very quickly. It can be expected that the senior coaching staff will sign him on a more long-term basis."
He said it had been a collective effort by several EPRU members to get Petersen to sign for the Kings Academy.
"A member of our executive, Earl Hill, president Cheeky Watson and director of rugby Alan Solomons all spoke to Sergeal's parents about joining the Kings.
"There was also a fine effort by Grey High and coach Rory Duncan who have done well to retain top players ..."