Herschel Jantjies, Rynhardt Elstadt and Lizo Gqoboka are set to become the latest Varsity Cup/Shield alumni to graduate to international rugby… and maybe even earn Rugby World Cup spots.
Following standout seasons in Super Rugby, Stormers scrumhalf Jantjies and Bulls loosehead prop Gqoboka were deservedly named by national coach Rassie Erasmus in the Springboks squad for the ‘mini’ The Rugby Championship. Rynhardt Elstadt, meanwhile, has been turning out for Toulouse in France and at 29 is a bit of a 'bolter' from Erasmus.
The 23-year-old Jantjies has seemingly further impressed Erasmus while in camp, as he has been named to make his international debut in the number 9 jersey against Australia on Saturday, 20 July. Interestingly, Jantjies will form a halfback partnership with his namesake, Elton Jantjies (no relation), for the clash at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (kick-off 17:05). Elstadt, who played a solitary game for Maties back in 2010, will make his international bow at openside flank with the pair being Varsity Cup/Shield graduates numbers 46 and 47 respectively.
Jantjies’ selection is the latest highlight in his rise to stardom. Born in Stellenbosch and educated at the famed Paul Roos Gymnasium, Jantjies’ talent has always been evident. He rose steadily through the Western Province youth teams but arguably made people truly sit up during the 2017 FNB Varsity Shield tournament.
While turning out for UWC, his sniping runs, crisp service and decision-making was key to them winning the tournament. In fact, Jantjies claimed the FNB Player that Rocks after the Final between UWC and UFH during which he scored a try.
Since then his career has gone from strength to strength with Western Province and the Stormers and his national selection has not come as a surprise to his former mentor at UWC, Chester Williams.
“Herschel Jantjies is undoubtedly one of the rising stars on the rugby scene. His work and determination have paid off and we look forward to seeing great things from him,” said the Springboks legend.
Gqoboka, meanwhile, will have to wait his turn to become the 48th Springboks player to have featured in Varsity Cup/Shield – he was only named as a replacement by Erasmus.
Gqoboka's is an intriguing story. Born in Tabankulu, he only picked up rugby when he started studying in Durban. On his return home, in 2011, he turned out for Eastern Province U-21 and then played three times for NMMU Madibaz during their successful 2013 Varsity Cup season. A move north followed, and Gqoboka has steadily grown his reputation with the Bulls.
At the start of the year none of the trio could have dreamed of playing at the Rugby World Cup. However, their selections acknowledge that they've knocked the door down enough that the incumbents have to be worried about their expected plane tickets to Japan come late September.
The full Springbok team vs Australia: (former Varsity Cup/Shield graduates in bold) Warrick Gelant, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, André Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka, Vincent Koch, Marvin Orie, Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Dillyn Leyds.