Wed, 27 Jan 2021

Cape Town - A year ago Lusanda Badiyana was on a rugby sabbatical - enjoying the picturesque landscapes of Vietnam, feasting on the famous dish Pho, and teaching Maths and Science in the Southeast Asian country.

Now he is on the verge of making a welcome return in the colours of the Southern Kings when the side kicks off their PRO14 2019/20 season.

Before taking the sabbatical and spending eight months as a teacher, Badiyana was part of the Southern Kings team and featured in four PRO14 matches in the side's debut season in the 2017/18 season.

""I'm very grateful to be part of the Southern Kings again, and also grateful to be playing in the PRO14. For myself and my career, this is a massive step in the right direction," Badiyana said.

"The PRO14 championship is a quality competition with top-class international players, and I am looking forward to adding to the four matches that gave me a taste of the competition in my first stint."

His return to the Southern Kings and the PRO14 is something the 23-year-old loose-forward has not only bolstered the loose-forward arsenal, but his leadership has already proven invaluable in the squad. He captained the team in one of their two pre-season matches against Namibia earlier in September.

Leadership is something that seems to come naturally to Badiyana.

In 2014 he was head boy of Cambridge High School in East London and also captained the school's First XV side.

His influence in a team environment goes as far back as 2015 where he was an influential member of the Eastern Province team that won the Under-19 Currie Cup.

Badiyana will be hoping that his winning mentality, work ethic and leadership influence will rub off on the relatively youthful Southern Kings side that will represent the Eastern Cape this season.

"We are very excited about the season that is coming up. We have close to 70% new players in the squad, so it is very exciting times and the general feeling in the camp is that of excitement," he said.

"We have new coaches who have come in with new ideas, so it is a fresh start for everyone.

"It's really exciting having a fairly young squad with players who bring a lot of energy and fresh ideas. This has been a positive for the team, and a big learning curve for the young players who have joined the team."

Whether Badiyana will be in the team that will take on Cardiff Blues in the opening match of the season at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, September 28, or he gets to don the Southern Kings jersey a little later, he is eager to get back on the PRO14 field.

One thing's for sure, his time in Vietnam during his sabbatical has certainly reignited his passion for the game and desire to get the Southern Kings on a winning track.

- Supplied by the Southern Kings

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