Nineteen-year-old fullback Khanyo Ngcukana will make his debut for UCT against Maties in the Varsity Cup on Monday.
Ngcukana played two full seasons for the Rondebosch Boys' High 1st XV in 2012 and 2013, and represented Western Province at the U16 Grant Khomo Week and U18 Craven Week. In the latter, he was concussed in WP's first game against the Pumas and missed the rest of their campaign. He admits it was a 'bitter pill to swallow'.
Despite that setback, Ngcukana had done enough to be offered a place at the Western Province Rugby Institute.
'It was incredibly tough but a great experience, and it helped to take my game to the next level,' Ngcukana told SA Rugby magazine.
The fullback went on to play for Western Province in the U19 domestic competition, and scored a try in their 33-26 win against the Blue Bulls in the Newlands final.
Ngcukana has since been given a one-year contract by WP, and the opportunity to make his mark in the Varsity Cup for UCT.
‘Being selected to start at fullback so soon came as a massive surprise, but it’s a huge honour for me,' he said. 'It’s great that the coach [Kevin Musikanth] believes in me.’
UCT will begin the defence of their Varsity Cup crown by hosting Maties (7pm kick-off, SuperSport 1), who they beat 20-8 in last year's semi-final on the Green Mile.
The Ikey Tigers' pre-season began last October, and Ngcukana says they were pushed to the limit with high-intensity fitness sessions, before focusing on structure, positioning, and defence.
UCT won all six of their pre-season fixtures, including one against Varsity Cup opponents UJ.
'Hopefully all the hard work we put in during pre-season will pay off,' Ngcukana added. 'There is a lot of competition for places, and great depth to our squad, so we're really looking forward to the start of the season.'
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images