Former Aberdeenshire rugby player Neville Bekker has returned to Aberdeen to form a link between his former club and his current South African Superleague side.
The Caledonia North League Division 2 club has linked up with Cape Town’s NNK in a move that will see them both share resources and players for their respective seasons – which run back-to-back throughout the year.
The partnership came about after NNK head coach Bekker, who played for Shire for two seasons, between 2004 and 2005, visited Aberdeen on holiday last month and met with Shire officials at Woodside to discuss the possibility of exchanging players.
For Bekker, who met his wife Tracy during his time playing for Aberdeenshire, the partnership brings back fond memories of his time playing in the Granite City.
He said: “I spent two incredibly enjoyable seasons playing for Aberdeenshire and the experience I took away from that time, both in my rugby playing and in my life, is something that I’ve always be grateful for.
“It’s this sort of positive impact that we are looking to recreate for a number of the young players coming through Aberdeenshire’s and NNK’s ranks. Our season in South Africa starts when Aberdeenshire’s ends so we are giving players the chance to hone their skills by playing rugby all year round instead of maybe just six months a year.
“The benefits of having experience of playing overseas rugby are vast and I’m sure both teams will reap the rewards from such a link-up.
“Aberdeen is a great city with a real appetite for rugby and I’m sure the players who do come over from Cape Town will enjoy it as much as I did.
“We still head back as much as we can and my three youngsters really love this part of the world and who knows, I might end up back in the Granite City for good sometime in the not so distant future.”
Colin Bell, director of rugby at Aberdeenshire, is thrilled by the link-up.
He said: “Here at Aberdeenshire we are a really ambitious club and this link-up with Neville’s NNK side is a positive development not just for the club but for players who have plans to make it in the game.
“The sharing of resources and experience can only have a positive effect on both teams.
“The club game in South Africa is incredibly popular and to have the chance to benefit from full-time players who play in front of between 4,000 and 8,000 supporters every week is simply something we couldn’t pass up.
“The opportunity to benefit from this and to experience this throughout our close season is something that our players are really looking forward to and I’m sure it will help stand us in good stead as the forthcoming season progresses.”