Varsity rugby gains pass mark as players are named for Castle Lager Springbok Showdown draft

As many as 56, over 60%, of the 93 players named for the draft of the historic Castle Lager Springbok Showdown have come through FNB Varsity Cup, FNB Varsity Shield or FNB Varsity Young Guns. 

The players, all of whom are based in South Africa, will be drafted into two 25-man squads – Green and Gold – on Friday, 25 September for the post-lockdown match scheduled for DHL Newlands on Saturday, 3 October.

The Green team will be coached by Mzwandile Stick, with Rassie Erasmus as team commissioner, while Deon Davids (FNB UWC's coach in 2011) and Jacques Nienaber will be in charge of the Gold squad.

To date, 48 players have progressed from Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield into fully-fledged Springboks. With 20 of those set to feature in this defacto Springbok 'trial', that leaves 36 players alumni hoping to be drafted and then make a favourable impression.

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Standout names among those uncapped ex-students are Jeandré Rudolph (FNB NWU's 2016 Cup-winning captain), erstwhile Springbok Sevens stars Ruhan Nel (who was called up for the Springboks in 2018 without playing) and Seabelo Senatla, as well as Dan Jooste and Schalk Erasmus who both featured for FNB Maties in this year's curtailed FNB Varsity Cup.

“We’ve cast the net very wide for this match, which is a very exciting prospect – as Springbok coaches, we can’t wait to start working with the players,” said Rassie Erasmus in a press release confirming the game and format.

“This match also provides us with a great opportunity for our younger players to rub shoulders with more experienced Springboks, especially since many of them missed out on Junior Springbok representation this year.”

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Erasmus explained that the squad of 93 players were identified during Vodacom Super Rugby and the Guinness PRO14 earlier in the year, and last year’s Currie Cup, and that the younger players on the list have been part of SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development (EPD) programme in the last couple of years.

A total of 32 players featured for the Junior Springboks between 2016 and 2019, which Erasmus was particularly pleased about.

“Even if they don’t make the final squads, it shows that our pathway from junior to senior level – as part of the EPD programme – works very well and it was especially exciting to see many of these players getting opportunities at franchise level in the last two seasons,” said Erasmus.

Castle Lager Springbok Showdown draft squad:

Props: Frans Malherbe*, Thomas du Toit*, Steven Kitshoff*, Trevor Nyakane*, Lizo Gqoboka^, Ox Nche^, Marcel van der Merwe^, Ruan Dreyer^, Dylan Smith, Carlü Sadie, Gerhard Steenekamp, Luan de Bruin, Sti Sithole, Nathan McBeth, Mzamo Majola, Johannes Jonker, John-Hubert Meyer.

Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi*, Scarra Ntubeni^, Dylan Richardson, Johan Grobbelaar, Schalk Erasmus, Fez Mbatha, Dan Jooste.

Locks: Jason Jenkins^, Marvin Orie^, Oupa Mohoje^, JD Schickerling, Emile van Heerden, Le Roux Roets, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat, Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp, Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruan Vermaak, Ruben Schoeman.

Looseforwards: Siya Kolisi*, Duane Vermeulen*, Sikhumbuzo Notshe^, Arno Botha^, Marco van Staden^, Nizaam Carr^, Jaco Kriel^, Ernst van Rhyn, Celimpilo Gumede, Jaco Coetzee, James Venter, Junior Pokomela, Phepsi Buthelezi, Thembelani Bholi, Vincent Tshituka, Elrigh Louw, Jeandré Rudolph, Juarno Augustus, Muller Uys, Len Massyn.

Scrumhalves: Herschel Jantjies*, Embrose Papier^, Ivan van Zyl^, Jaden Hendrikse, Sanele Nohamba.

Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies*, Damian Willemse*, Curwin Bosch^, George Whitehead, Kade Wolhuter, Manie Libbok.

Centres: Frans Steyn*, Lukhanyo Am*, Burger Odendaal, Jeremy Ward, Clinton Swart, Manuel Rass, Marius Louw, Rikus Pretorius, Wandisile Simelane, Werner Kok, Dan du Plessis, Ruhan Nel.

Outside backs: Warrick Gelant*, Travis Ismaiel^, Cornal Hendricks^, Courtnall Skosan^, Rabz Maxwane, Rosko Specman, Seabelo Senatla, Sergeal Petersen, Yaw Penxe, David Kriel, Gianni Lombard, Malcolm Jaer.

Varsity rugby alumni in bold

* denotes Springbok Rugby World Cup squad members. ^ denotes capped Springbok Test players