The veteran Springbok centre, Japie Mulder, has become the first union international to sign to play both codes of rugby for the same club.
The 32-year-old, who won 34 caps for South Africa, was unveiled at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday by Gary Hetherington, chief executive of both Leeds Rhinos of Super League and Leeds Tykes of the Premiership. In effect, Mulder has signed for the parent company, Leeds Rugby Ltd, until May 2003. He will start to earn his money in the familiar code next month, but will switch to league when the union season ends in May.
"I have always wanted to play overseas and the fact that Leeds were able to offer me the chance to play both league and union was a real factor in my decision to sign," he said.
Mulder became something of a national hero when he achieved the rare feat of tackling Jonah Lomu, a previous Leeds target for a similar dual role, on the way to winning the 1995 rugby union World Cup with the Springboks. His last cap for South Africa, however, was last June. He was ignored for the autumn tour to Europe and Mulder admitted that he was looking to safeguard his future.
"I'm in the twilight of my career and have to look to establishing a little nest egg for myself," he said. Like many in other spheres, he clearly believes he needs more than one job to do that.
Mulder is likely to replace another cross-code player, Graham Mackay, at the Tykes, but will not be alone in Britain in leading a schizoid rugby life this year.
Gary Connolly's Wigan contract sees him playing for Orrell before reverting to league, while Bradford Bulls say that some of their players will turn out for the newly-acquired Wakefield rugby union club.Reuse content