PRETORIA – Springbok and Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige will be joining the Cheetahs on a three-month agreement for the remainder of the PRO14 competition.
The 28-year-old Paige fell out of favour at the Bulls, and was a glaring omission from their Super Rugby squad earlier this year, with head coach John Mitchell opting for the less experienced André Warner, Junior Springbok Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl.
Paige had undergone a groin operation in January after getting married, and was expected to be out of action until the end of February.
But there were already rumours that his five-year stay at Loftus Versfeld was in jeopardy after not making the cut under Mitchell, with speculation suggesting that he would be returning to Johannesburg to join the Lions.
“He (Paige) has been fantastic for the club. He’s made it his life in recent years and has given a lot, but I just thought it was time to move forward with the young number nines,” said Mitchell earlier in the year after announcing his squad.
“I like a very fast number nine, and certainly all the nines that we’ve selected have that ability.
“He’s recovering from injury and has just recently got married as well. He’s got a lot going on in his life.
“Should we get injuries, then we’re very fortunate to have somebody of his experience. He’s a very infectious, enthusiastic guy as well.
“It was difficult sitting him down and telling him the news, but he’s taken it as well as anyone could.”
The Cheetahs confirmed Paige’s availability to them in a brief statement on Thursday, stating that the former SA Schools halfback would act as cover for incumbent scrumhalves Zee Mkhabela and Tian Meyer, with Shaun Venter and Ruan van Rensburg sidelined with injury.
“With the other two young scrumhalves Dian Badenhorst and Revan Kruger involved in Varsity Cup and on SA Under-20 level, Paige’s availability will come at an important stage of the competition seeing that the Cheetahs is well placed to reach the playoffs.”
Capped 13 times at international level after making his debut against the USA at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Paige’s Springbok career hung in the balance, with no Super Rugby action under his belt this year.
But his agent Anthony Johnson is hopeful that something good can come out of his time with the Cheetahs.
“Rudy needs to go to a team where he has the coach’s backing and where he can potentially get regular game time.
“Franco (Smith, Cheetahs coach) has been very positive about Rudy in my discussions with him, so hopefully he can get the best out of the player,” said Johnson.