World Cup-winning Springbok captains Francois Pienaar and John Smit have both lauded the Varsity Cup as a platform for creating Springboks.
Twelve of the current Springboks who departed South African shores for the World Cup in Japan came through the Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield.
The 10 Varsity Cup players were Bongi Mbonambi (UP-Tuks/TUT), Eben Etzebeth (UCT), Franco Mostert (UP-Tuks), Lood de Jager (NWU), Malcolm Marx (UJ), Trevor Nyakane (CUT), Vincent Koch (UP-Tuks), Damian de Allende (UCT), Handré Pollard (UP-Tuks), Warrick Gelant (UP-Tuks), while Herschel Jantjies (UWC) and S'bu Nkosi (UKZN) came through the Varsity Shield competition.
Varsity Cup founder and 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar is incredibly proud of the former Varsity Cup players making their mark on international rugby.
‘To have so many players from the FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Varsity Shield in the Springbok squad is the dream I envisioned when I started the Varsity Cup in 2009. Players like Bongi Mbonambi, Handré Pollard and Damian de Allende have stood out in this team and what’s really special is having Varsity Shield players Sbu Nkosi and Herschel Jantjies playing their role in getting the Springboks to the final.
‘Considering the competitiveness we’ve seen in the last two years in the FNB Varsity Cup, I think we can expect many more FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Varsity Shield stars to graduate to the Springboks squad at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.’
2007 Rugby World Cup-winning captain Smit echoed Pienaar’s sentiments.
‘It’s clear the systems of the tournament are working, and the FNB Varsity Cup is giving these players a great bridge between high school and provincial rugby. To have 12 players in the squad that left South Africa for Japan shows that it is a strong platform for growth.
‘The fast-paced game play in the FNB Varsity Cup has almost certainly contributed to why so many of these players have not only made it into the squad but been instrumental in the Boks’ route to the final, too.’
Several former FNB Varsity Cup players are likely to start for the Springboks on Saturday (kick-off 11am SA time) against England in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama.
Pienaar wished the team good luck ahead of the monumental clash.
‘We wish the Boks good luck! I can’t wait to see Siya lift the trophy!’