Excitement builds as Israel’s first pro rugby team, Tel Aviv Heat, embark on a historic tour to South Africa
Tel Aviv Heat director of rugby Kevin Musikanth is set to lead a four-match tour with a star-studded squad
The newly formed Tel Aviv heat are scheduled to play three South African rugby sides in March 2022. The Heat – as they are more affectionately known – will play ABE Midas Naka Bulls, Northam Rhinos, and the Loftus 200 Invitational Squad. Varsity Cup 2014 UCT Ikeys winning coach Kevin Musikanth is the director of rugby and head coach of the team.
Among the Tel Aviv Heat 38-man squad are a few familiar and well-known South African rugby players will be donning the Heat jersey as they face some of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union’s most vibrant, young, and upcoming rugby stars.
The South African rugby public will recognise a few familiar names in Tel Aviv Heat squad. The touring party will be captained by Namibia International and former Bulls Renaldo Bothma, current UWC Varsity Cup stalwart Justin ‘Jubba’ Theys, former Bulls speedster Sebastiaan Jobb, Maties Varsity Cup Young Guns Divan Enslin, former Blue Bulls wing Xolisa Guma, and former Ospreys and Namibia International Lesley Klim are but some of the names that will be recognised when the tour gets underway.
“It is truly fantastic to be able to be invited by the Blue Bulls to tour and give our talented squad exposure in one of the world’s strongest rugby playing regions,” said an elated Musikanth. “This will be an amazing momentum-builder for our Tel Aviv Heat as we prepare for the upcoming Rugby Europe Super Cup season.
The Tel Aviv Heat was launched in July 2021. CEO Pete Sickle emphasis the Israeli “start-up” culture that exists within the very value system on which the Tel Aviv Heat are built.
“This is a very exciting time for the Tel Aviv Heat franchise,” said Sickle. “We incorporate and leverage the Israeli “start-up” culture which includes creativity and innovation in everything we do and embark on. The main drive and focus are to elevate and advance the game of rugby in Israel by connecting rugby fans from all across the world by following an all-inclusive approach and promoting diversity within the team. For now, Tel Aviv Heat can be viewed as the underdog, but we are on the journey to showcase just how great we are and will be.”
President of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, Willem Strauss embraces the approach both teams are taking to advancing the game not only giving the Tell Aviv Heat players are chance to play at one of South Africa’s most iconic venue, Loftus Versfeld, but also for the Blue Bulls Rugby Union to unearth and give a platform to their club and amateur rugby players to test themselves against some talented and skilled opposition.
“This is a great opportunity to reward the best semi-professional players in the Bulls club structures, and we are excited to welcome a team like the Tel Aviv Heat to Pretoria.” said Strauss. “Club rugby is a priority for not only for our administration, but for everyone at the Blue Bulls.”
Tour Match Dates:
19 March Tel Aviv Heat Reds v Northam Rhinos, kick-off 15:00
19 March Tel Aviv Heat Blues v Northam Rhinos, kick-off 17:00
23 March Tel Aviv Heat Reds v Naka Bulls, kick-off 19:00
26 March Tel Aviv Heat v Loftus 200, kick-off 16:00
Tel Aviv Heat Touring Squad
Forwards (26 players): Jared Sichel (Hamiltons RFC, Israel National Team), Thabiso Matletshe (Junior Springboks), Ruben Ricco (Argentina U21), Justin Theys (UWC Varsity Cup), Yarron Harris (Israel National Team), Thembi Mangwana (Junior Cheetahs), Connie Campher (Cheetahs Craven Week), Brad Van Niekerk (Pirates RFC) Obert Nortje (Weltwitchias, Namibia National Team), Mcmillan Muller (Lions, Boland), Yiftach Engel Eirad Barkai, Nitzan Reizel, Misha Eli, Yotam Shulman, Mayaan Shaked (all Israel National Team), Johan Du Preez (Harelquins (PTA),Penza), Marlin Williams (Griquas), Renaldo Bothma (captain) (Namibia National Team, Bulls, Sharks, Harlequins), Jeremy Jordaan (Enisei, Agen), Pieter Driegard (Namibia National Squad), Prince Gaoseb (Namibia National Team, Bulls), Saar Gellar (Ranaana ‘Roosters’ Rugby Club, Israel), Thomas Berman (Wits Varsity Cup), Yahel Rozilio (Israel National Team), Benny Brustein (Kibbutz Yizreel, Israel)
Backs (17 players): Bradley Thain (Lions), Gilad Vardi (Kibbutz Yizreel, Israel), Omer Levinson, Dan Stein, Mati Gordon, Vitali Primark (all Israel National Team), Marc Morrison (Junior Lions), Stewi Gantsho (Sharks Juniors), Divan Enslin (SA Academy Sevens), Idan Eisenberg, Gili Amit (both Israel National Team), Lesley Klim (Namibia National Team and Ospreys), Kieran Houlston (Sharks U21), Sebastiaan Jobb (Junior Boks, Bulls), Gabriel Ibitoye (England u21, Montpellier, Harlequins), Xolisa Guma (Bulls), Thobekani Buthelezi (UCT Varsity Cup)