Shimlas and Cheetahs U21 centre Shayne Bolton, who is Irish-qualified, has signed for Connacht Rugby ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Bolton, whose grandmother is from Dublin, will arrive at the Irish club with a reputation as one of the brightest young prospects in South African rugby. The 20-year-old represented the University of Free State in the Varsity Cup and was also impressive in the SA Rugby U21 Championship last year.
A powerful and skilful ball-carrier, his ability to play centre and anywhere across the back three will be a major boost to Andy Friend’s side heading into next season. Bolton scored a try and fired for the Invitational team that recently beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
‘After we learned of Shayne’s availability and his Irish ancestry, we kept an eye on his progression and did some further work to confirm his playing ability,’ said Friend.
‘It quickly became apparent that he was the type of player that could add real value to our squad. He has been turning heads in South Africa with his recent performances and, while he’s still only 20 years of age, he has all the attributes to become a top-class professional player.
‘Players with versatility are a key component we look for in our squad mix, and Shayne fits that category perfectly. He started off at fullback and on the wing before moving to centre in the last year or two, so we’re looking forward to his arrival and seeing how best to integrate him into the squad.’
Bolton, who also represented the Blue Bulls Country Districts at the U18 Academy Week in 2018, says Connacht is the perfect place to begin his pro career.
‘After numerous chats with Andy and Tim [Allnutt] I knew this was an opportunity I had to take. They spoke about how they pride themselves in developing players and I immediately felt that Connacht was the right place to take my game to the next level. I can’t wait to reconnect with my Irish roots and get ready for the season ahead.’