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Premiership Rugby

Leicester Tigers sign Van der Westhuyzen

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Leicester Tigers have announced the signing of South African fullback Jaco van der Westhuyzen.

The 25-year-old arrives at the club having starred for the Springboks at the world cup in Australia recently, where he scored a try in their emphatic win over Samoa in the pool stages.

Van der Westhuyzen joins from Currie Cup province the Blue Bulls, who have won the provincial competition for the last two seasons, and has also played fly-half for the Pretoria-based side.

Tigers director of rugby Dean Richards said of his new signing: "Jaco was one of the outstanding fullbacks of the Rugby World Cup, and is also an excellent fly half.

"He will join us as soon as is practicably possible, and will be registered to play in the Heineken Cup, although he will likely not be available until the second round of matches, against Gwent Dragons at home on December 14, while he organises his affairs.

"Jaco will be with us until the end of the season before he goes on to Japan, and with Geordan Murphy out injured and Tim Stimpson having left for Perpignan, he will be a valuable addition to the squad."

In the Super 12 competition Van der Westhuyzen has been a key figure for the Bulls, and was one of five to be nominated recently for the South African Super 12 player of the year award, following the Bulls' sixth-place finish in the competition – the highest of any South African team in 2003.

His fleet-footed counter-attacking style, big boot and safety under the high ball have made him a favourite with South African fans, while he has also served as a goal-kicker at times during his stay at the Blue Bulls.

The former Natal Sharks U20 and Pumas player has nine Springbok caps to his name so far, having made his debut back in 2000, although a knee injury after his first two tests largely curtailed his international career until this season when he was named man-of-the-match against Scotland, although he did play one international against Italy in 2001.

An injury in the early stages of the Tri-Nations match against Australia in Cape Town saw him originally miss out on world cup selection, although when centre Jean de Villiers later pulled out due to injury himself, a fit-again Van der Westhuyzen was drafted back into the fold.

His earlier career saw him appear for the South Africa U21 side which lifted the SANZAR U21 title, the predecessor to the official U21 world cup, while he has also played for his country at U23 level.

– For an exclusive interview with Jaco van der Westhuyzen, log on to www.leicestertigers.com shortly.

ENDS

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