Springbok duo Lood de Jager and Damian de Allende both credit coming through the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International as a vital stepping stone on their way to the national side.
Both players were playing Varsity Cup recently as 2012, with Stormers utility back De Allende representing the FNB Ikey Tigers and Cheetahs lock De Jager playing for the NWU-Pukke Young Guns team.
However, it did not take long for either player to make their way through the ranks, with De Allende playing in the 2012 Currie Cup final for Western Province and De Jager getting his Super Rugby call-up from the Cheetahs in 2013 before both were brought into the Bok squad by coach Heyneke Meyer this year.
De Jager, who scored two tries in his first Test start against Scotland in June, said that the experience of playing in the Varsity Young Guns competition had been a key stepping stone for him.
"The Young Guns is a good competition to test yourself against the best guys your age and it is a great stepping stone to later play senior Varsity Cup, provincial rugby and hopefully one day for the Springboks," he told varsitycup.co.za.
The lanky lock added that his time in Potchefstroom had been important for his development as a person and as a rugby player.
"I think Pukke is a great place to start your rugby career, they have great facilities, great coaches, and they give you a chance to study full-time.
"I just want to thank Pukke for everything they have done for me in my rugby career and I wish them well for the Varsity Cup," he added.
For De Allende, who played at centre and wing for the Ikeys before going on to do the same for the Stormers, Varsity Cup gave him vital exposure.
"I think that playing for UCT in the Varsity Cup was probably the perfect platform for me because that's where I got my first opportunity and exposure to rugby at a competitive level and for that I will always be thankful.
"It was an awesome experience and it's been a big stepping stone going forward in my career," he said.
De Allende added that he still carries valuable lessons learned playing at UCT with him today.
"The experience of playing Varsity rugby taught me to always enjoy myself and the friendships I built are still on going. We also had this motto at UCT ‘of being better people’ and that still contributes to the person I am today," he said.