EASTERN striker Dale Tempest is being lined up to make a return to rivals South China next season. Tempest will have completed seven years in the territory by next August making him a 'local player' and qualifying him to represent Hong Kong on the international stage. And the former Fulham striker, who turns 32 next Saturday, said yesterday there was a 'distinct possibility' he would re-join the Caroliners - the club which launched his highly successful Hong Kong career six years ago - revealing he has had initial talks with South China officials. 'I have spoken to South China and they have told me that I would be welcome to join them next season. 'I'll probably have more talks with them in the New Year but at the moment, my priority lies with Eastern and it's too early to say whether I would join South China. It's not relevant now,' he said. Tempest was the territory's top goal-scorer for five of the past six years and he hopes to end his career by playing for Hong Kong in the 1997 World Cup qualifiers. 'If I am going to play in the World Cup, I would want to play with a strong team.' It's no secret that South China - who have already won the first round of the league and were recently crowned Senior Challenge Shield champions - would jump at the chance of signing Tempest. 'We haven't decided on anything, but there's a possibility that Tempest will join us next season. We know he becomes a local player next year and we would discuss his possible move in time,' said a South China official. Tempest has so far scored four goals in his fourth season with Eastern, who have fallen from grace after their major sponsor pulled out last summer. Tempest and goalkeeper Iain Hesford remained loyal with the team amidst an exodus of players which included centre-half Tim O'Shea and winger Ross Greer, both of whom joined Instant-Dict. They also lost Hong Kong captain Lee Kin-wo, who joined South China. Forced to rebuild their team from scratch, Eastern, the reigning league champions have been struggling, finishing second from bottom in the first round of the league. They did, however, reached the semi-finals of the Senior Challenge Shield. Meanwhile, Eastern and South China renew their rivalry tonight when they meet in their opening second round league match at Mongkok Stadium. Tempest is hoping his team will catch South China off guard. 'South China will obviously be the raging favourites. They have just won a trophy [Shield] and we are hoping to catch them on a quiet day. We have had clean sheets against Golden and Happy Valley in the league [both 0-0] and we are hoping for the same against South China,' said Tempest, who has an 11 pm flight to Britain tonight for a Christmas break. South China beat Eastern 3-1 at the Hong Kong Stadium back in September. South China are on high after their 2-1 victory over Golden in the Shield final six days ago. South China forward Ricky Cheng Siu-chung remains on the sidelines after aggravating an ankle injury while warming up just before the Shield game.