A SOUTH African-born rugby captain will play his 200th game for Furness Rugby Club at the weekend.

Cornelius Gerhardus Els, 34, will reach the milestone when Furness face Egremont on Saturday.

Club president John Mallinson said: "He's well liked by all, except his opponents, who think he’s a bloody nuisance.

"As a player you’d probably describe him as uncompromising."

Els was born in Krugersdorp, a small city near Johannesburg.

At the age of 19, unsure what he wanted to do with his life, he headed to London to travel for a year where he worked a series of jobs as a labourer and manual worker.

Meanwhile Furness Rugby was looking to improve the quality of its playing squad when the idea was floated of inviting international players.

Mr Mallinson said: "We had a connection in South Africa so we thought we could give them a base to stay and play some games for us and travel around a bit at the same time."

One of these players, Charl Barnard, was a friend of Els from home.

He invited Els to stay for a weekend, which, after getting a job at the South Lakes Safari Zoo, turned into a much longer stay.

Mr Mallinson continued: "I don’t know if they thought 'well, he's from South Africa so he must know about animals,' but he got a job there and never really looked back.”

Staying at the house rented by the club to house overseas players, he began playing games for the club and has now been the captain for four years.

At the zoo he met his future wife of 11 years, Emma, with whom he would go on to have two children, Otto and Anika.

After establishing a life in Barrow - love, work and hobbies - he set up his own construction company called Kruger Construction and moved to Walney, where he now lives with his family.

Mr Mallinson said: "He's certainly something else. He eats raw meat and is impervious to pain.

"He’s also our go to man if we have a hog roast."