Ludik to answer Ireland's call?

Louis Ludik (Getty Images)
Louis Ludik (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Louis Ludik is the latest former South African rugby prospect setting his sights on playing for another country.

The 29-year-old former Lions and Sharks utility back was once dubbed as a future Springbok, but left South African shores in 2013 in search of greener pastures.

Ludik joined French club Agen and played one season there before joining Irish province Ulster in 2014.

The versatile Ludik has thrived at Ulster for the past 18 months, proving himself to be equally adept at outside centre, wing and fullback.

Ulster have been impressed by Ludik’s stint there and on Wednesday announced that he had extended his contract, clearly with the intent to possibly represent Ireland when he becomes eligible in 2017.

"Re-signing Louis Ludik is a fantastic outcome for Ulster Rugby as he provides so much to the province both on and off the field. As Louis becomes Irish-qualified in the summer of 2017, I want to thank the IRFU and David Nucifora (IRFU performance director) for understanding the very clear rationale for allowing us to retain his services,” Ulster’s operations director Bryn Cunningham told the club’s official website.

"Louis has been one of the most consistent performers for Ulster over the past 18 months. His attitude and commitment have been exemplary, becoming an excellent role model for the young backs currently coming through our pathway.”

By extending his stay in Ireland, Ludik has likely put paid to any hopes he may have harboured of ever representing the Springboks.

But the dream of playing Test rugby still seems alive, albeit for a different country.

Should he achieve the feat, Ludik won’t be the first South African playing in the green of Ireland.

Currently, former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss boasts 13 Test caps for his adopted nation, and former Bulls loose forward CJ Stander is set to make his Test debut in this year’s Six Nations, having recently become eligible to represent Ireland.

Former Western Province loose forward, Robbie Diack - who has played for Ulster since 2008 - played two Tests for Ireland in 2014, while Cape Town-born Rob Herring, also at Ulster, played one Test at hooker in 2014.

Another former Western Province loose forward, Dion O' Cuinneagain, played 19 Tests for Ireland between 1998 and 2000, while there was also centre David Curtis, who played 13 Tests for Ireland between 1991 and 1992. Curtis was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) but had strong South African ties, having represented the University of Cape Town several times.

Then there are also former Stormers players - wing Danie Poolman and lock Quinn Roux - who have played in Ireland since 2012. Poolman has represented Connacht since 2012, while Roux has played for Leinster and Connacht. Both, however, are yet to receive call-ups from the Ireland selectors.

There are already several South Africans playing Test rugby for their adopted countries, with no fewer than 15 of them representing other nations during last year’s Rugby World Cup.

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