SARugbymag.co.za looks at the journeys of the 12 Varsity Cup products who will be playing for the Springboks at the upcoming World Cup in Japan.
Bongi Mbonambi (Tuks/TUT)
Mbonambi played for Tuks for two years in 2013 and 2014, after spending a year at TUT in 2012 and playing for the Vikings. Mbonambi helped Tuks thrash Maties in the final of the 2013 edition of the Varsity Cup. He was largely overlooked for selection by the Vodacom Bulls which led him to move south and join the Stormers, where he has managed to solidify his place as their first-choice hooker and become a Springbok.
Eben Etzebeth (UCT)
Etzebeth was a major part of the last UCT team to win the Varsity Cup in 2011. Etzebeth started in the final, where the Ikey Tigers travelled to Pretoria and beat Tuks 26-16. While injury ruled him out of the rest of 2011, Etzebeth made his senior debut for the Stormers and Springboks in 2012.
Franco Mostert (Tuks)
Mostert played for Tuks for three years between 2010 and 2012. Despite suffering heartbreak in the 2011 final, Mostert was able to help Tuks claim the title in 2012. Mostert joined the Lions from the Bull in 2013 and was included in their 2014 Super Rugby squad after an injury in 2013. He was part of the spine of a Lions team that made the Super Rugby final in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Mostert has since signed for English side Gloucester and helped the club to a third-place finish in his first season.
Lood de Jager (NWU)
Before joining the Cheetahs, where he made his breakthrough, De Jager played for North-West University in the 2012 Varsity Cup. NWU finished fourth that year and were knocked out in the semi-finals by Tuks, who went on to win the title. De Jager still performed enough to earn a move to Bloemfontein. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2013 and earned his first cap for the Boks the following year. De Jager joined the Bulls in 2017 and will move to the Sale Sharks after the World Cup.
Malcolm Marx (UJ)
Marx played for UJ in 2013 and scored four tries in eight appearances for the Johannesburg university. During that year he was also named Lions U19 Forward of the Year. His form for the Lions’ junior sides was not ignored and he made his senior debut in 2014 and Springbok debut in 2016. Marx earned the SA Rugby Player and Young Player of the Year awards in 2017.
Trevor Nyakane (CUT)
Nyakane played for CUT in 2011 and 2012, while the Bloemfontein university was still in the Varsity Shield. During this time he also played junior rugby for the Cheetahs, beginning his senior career as a loosehead prop. After an impressive 2013 Super Rugby season, Nyakane made his Springbok debut that same year. He joined the Bulls in 2015.
Vincent Koch (Tuks)
Koch started his professional career as a loosehead for Tuks and the Bulls. Koch played for Tuks in the 2011 and 2012 Varsity Cup, winning the title with Mostert in 2012. He then moved to the Pumas and Stormers before joining Saracens.
Damian de Allende (UCT)
Prior to joining the Stormers, De Allende displayed his massive potential as a wing for UCT in 2012. Despite a disappointing season, where the Tigers finished in seventh place, De Allende still earned the attention of the Stormers, who handed him his Super Rugby debut the following year in 2013. It was then that De Allende made the move to centre, where he would make his Springbok debut.
Handre Pollard (Tuks)
A schoolboy prodigy with Paarl Gim, Pollard made the move to the Bulls at the end of 2012. He was a mainstay in the Tuks starting linuep in 2013, scoring 68 points in their run to the final and then contributing a further 17 points as Tuks retained the Varsity Cup title.
Herschel Jantjies (UWC)
A product of Paul Roos, Jantjies has worked his way through the youth ranks at Western Province before his breakthrough in 2019. However, it was with Chester Williams’ UWC in the Varsity Shield in 2017 that he first caught the eye. An impressive performance in the 2017 Varsity Shield final earned Jantjies a Man of the Match award.
S’bu Nkosi (UKZN)
After matriculating from Jeppe High, Nkosi joined the Sharks academy in 2015. He played for the UKZN Impi in the 2016 Varsity Shield, scoring three tries as they finished joint top with Wits. However, a points deduction for fielding an ineligible player had UKZN demoted to third place on the log.
Warrick Gelant (Tuks)
Schooled at Outeniqua High, Gelant made the move north to join the Bulls in 2014. Gelant played for Tuks in his first year of professional rugby in 2014, but could not help Tuks retain the title they had won the previous two years.