Free Jacks Announce the Signing of Three MLR Veterans
Baillie, Bezuidenhout and Jenkinson will make their New England debuts in 2024
Quincy, MA – Veteran lock/flanker Kyle Baillie has signed with the New England Free Jacks ahead of the 2024 campaign. The Canadian International joins off the back of a standout 2023 MLR season with Old Glory DC where he arrived as a late addition and made a tremendous impact on the side, playing a key role in propelling them to the playoffs. The 6 ‘6 Alberta, Canada native previously featured for the Toronto Arrows (2022 MLR season), and NOLA Gold (2019 – 2021 MLR seasons) where he captained in 2021.
A leader for Rugby Canada, Baillie debuted for the men’s XVs side in February of 2016 against the United States. He has earned 35 caps appearances to date, which he will soon build on as he departs on tour with Canada to Spain alongside many other Free Jacks this month.
Baillie’s rugby career has seen him play abroad for Eastern Suburbs in Australia’s Shute Shield (2017), London Scottish in the English Championship (2017-2018 season), and trial for the Saracens (English Premiership) in 2017.
Head Coach, Scott Mathie on the signing: “Kyle is an experienced player and strong leader. He brings expertise at lineout time and has a phenomenal work rate for a big lad. He represents everything that we stand for; physical, tough and really enjoys all facets of the rugby environment. He is going to add a lot of value to the franchise and we can’t wait to see him join some of his close mates here at the Free Jacks.”
‘Jaco’ Bezuidenhout makes his way to New England by way of the Houston Sabercats (no trade considerations). The wily (6 ‘3) 26 year old back row will add versatility with the ability to play at number 8 and blindside flanker. Jaco has spent two seasons in MLR with the Houston Sabercats, impressing across 11 appearances in 2022 before picking up an injury that kept him out of the 2023 season.
Originally from Durban, South Africa, Bezuidenhout was vice-captain of the University of Pretoria Tuks who won the Varsity cup title in 2021. Before coming to North America, Jaco played with the Blue Bulls in South Africa’s Currie Cup, the highest level domestic rugby league in South Africa.
“I’ve known Jaco from his time in the Varsity cup set up in South Africa where he excelled in a championship winning Tuks university team,” commented Head Coach, Scott Mathie. He has shown at the Bulls and with Houston that he possesses the qualities that we have come to admire in our loose forwards. Hardworking, dominant in tackle and ball carry, and great bloke off the field. Coming from a year out of the game due to a shoulder injury, he has shown the level of professionalism associated with his character by working himself back to full fitness. He will add to the depth we have in the position and certainly make a strong claim for a starting spot in 2024.”
John-Roy Jenkinson (‘JR’) continues his illustrious career joining the 2024 Free Jacks squad via Rugby Atlanta in exchange for salary cap considerations. The 32-year old, powerful tighthead prop calls Cape Town, South Africa home, and is no stranger to elite level rugby having played professionally for 14 years. Currently contracted with Racing Narbonne in the French second division (Pro D2) as a medical replacement until December, Jenkinson will hit the ground running in 2024.
Since joining Rugby ATL ahead of the 2022 MLR season, Jenkinson has proved arguably the form tighthead in MLR, making a name for himself as a devastating scrummager.
“I am grateful and excited for the new opportunity to join a team with great team spirit, a strong culture and that performs on the pitch week in and week out,” said Jenkinson on joining the side.
The 290 lb South African has been in hot demand since representing the South Africa U20 side in the 2011 Junior World Championship. Jenkinson played Currie Cup rugby for the Leopards and Cheetahs through 2016 when he moved to the Blue Bulls, making his Super Rugby debut in 2018. Jenkinson then spent a season in the Top League in Japan with the Sanix Blues during the 2018/19 season, returning for a final stint in the Currie Cup with the Griquas before entering the MLR in 2022 with Rugby ATL.
For Head Coach Scott Mathie and John-Roy Jenkinson, it won’t be their first time working together: “I’ve known JR for a long time (quipped Mathie) and it’s great to be reunited with him. He has shown that he is a top scrummaging force in the competition and has surprisingly soft skills for a big man. He has a strong desire to be part of what we are doing here in Quincy, and it’s this hunger and competitive mindset that we really admire in him. He will add a lot of value to our front row ranks.”
About New England Free Jacks: The Free Jacks are an aspiring and innovative live events, media, and consumer products organization. The core brand in the portfolio is The New England Free Jacks, the humble hard-working free-spirited professional rugby team competing in the emergent and exhilarating Major League Rugby (MLR), the premier North American professional rugby competition. For more information, please visit www.FreeJacks.com.