The Springboks will head to the Rugby World Cup with 13 FNB Varsity Cup and Shield graduates.
Among the 31 players named by SA Rugby Director of Rugby and Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus for the tournament in Japan, there are eight forwards and five backline players who spent some of their formative years playing in the premier varsity tournaments in the world.
Herschel Jantjies (UWC 2017) was among the most recent graduates to debut for the Springboks but shone so bright during this year's The Rugby Championship that his plane ticket became undebatable.
The scrumhalf isn’t the only player to have risen from the second tier Varsity Shield all the way to national team, as prop Trevor Nyakane (CUT 2011-12) and winger S’bu Nkosi (UKZN 2016) also did so.
Meanwhile, hooker Bongi Mbonambi is the only Springboks player to have turned out for two Varsity Cup teams, those being TUT in 2011 before moving across the nation’s capital to UP-Tuks from 2013-14.
UP-Tuks, in fact, supply almost half of the graduates. Franco Mostert (2010-12), Vincent Koch (2011-12), Handré Pollard (2013), Warrick Gelant (2014) and RG Snyman (2014 Young Guns) make up the rest of the sextet.
UCT, on the other have two alumni, in Eben Etzebeth (2011) and Damian de Allende (2012) but, considering their dominance of Varsity Cup over the years, Maties haven’t supplied a single alumnus to the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup cause.
NWU have, though, thanks to lock Lood de Jager (2012) and so has UJ, courtesy of hooker Malcolm Marx (2013) – the reigning South African Players’ Player of the Year.
Come Saturday, 2 November, the likes of Etzebeth, Mostert, Mbonambi, Pollard and Jantjies will hope to have the trophy-winning feeling in Yokohama as they had during their Varsity Cup and Shield days…
Springboks' Rugby World Cup squad:
Forwards (17): Schalk Brits (Bulls), Lood de Jager (Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Siya Kolisi (captain, Stormers), Francois Louw (Bath, England), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Lions), RG Snyman (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)
Backs (14): Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), Warrick Gelant (Bulls), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), S'bu Nkosi (Sharks), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), Handré Pollard (Bulls), Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France)