Here are 10 players tipped to produce plenty of highlights in the 2021 Varsity Cup tournament, which kicks off on Sunday.
Bolton is a super-talented centre with excellent skills and a feel for the game. He can take a gap and create space for a teammate, while he is a hard worker on and off the field. Bolton played for the Blue Bulls Country Districts at the U18 Academy Week and for Free State in last year’s SA Rugby U21 Championship. Shimlas coach Pote Human believes he has the potential to become a top professional rugby player.
University: UFS Shimlas
School: Hoërskool Eldoraigne
Born: 29 June 2000
Having been part of the Vodacom Bulls team that won last year’s SA Rugby U21 Championship, Coetzer will now spearhead Tuks’ title challenge in the Varsity Cup. The former Junior Springbok is an excellent all-round flyhalf, dangerous with ball in hand, an accurate kicker, solid defender and good communicator. Tuks coach Nico Luus regards the 22-year-old as ‘one of the best flyhalves I’ve had the privilege of coaching’ and believes he will finish among the top point-scorers in this year’s Varsity Cup if he stays injury free.
School: Selborne College
Born: 5 February 1999
Like his Springbok father, Bolla, Conradie is a quick and elusive scrumhalf with a good pass. ‘His unpredictability is one of his biggest strengths,’ says UWC coach Paul Treu. ‘He has a wicked step, good spacial awareness and an ability to snipe around the edges. He’s one of those players who will create havoc if the opposition doesn’t keep an eye on him.’ Having played for UWC in last year’s Young Guns tournament, Conradie is eager to make his mark in the Varsity Cup. ‘It’s an honour and privilege to play in the Varsity Cup,’ he says. ‘I’m going to do my best for my team, coaching staff and myself. I just want to follow in the footsteps of the person who inspires me the most – my old man!’
School: Stellenberg High
Born: 25 November 2001
Cupido is an experienced flyhalf and centre, who won two Varsity Shield titles with UWC before joining Wits ahead of the 2020 season. ‘His biggest strength is his understanding of the game and ability to read the game,’ says Wits coach Hugo van As.
School: Paul Roos Gimnasium
Born: 4 September 1996
Hunt did not play in last year’s Varsity Cup because of injury and this will be his final campaign as he finishes studying at UCT in June. The 24-year-old tighthead prop, who was an undergraduate at NWU and played senior rugby for the Leopards, takes great pride in his scrumming, hits the breakdown hard and is a strong ball-carrier with good passing and offloading skills. ‘He is a fierce competitor who is desperate to succeed for his team and become a professional rugby player,’ says UCT coach Tom Dawson-Squibb.
School: HTS Drostdy
Born: 16 August 1996
Jasper represented the Junior Springboks in 2019 and would have done so again in 2020 but for the Covid-19 pandemic. After his first year of Varsity Cup for CUT, as a 19-year-old, he went on to play for the Free State U21 team, and he is set to join the Cheetahs senior squad after this year’s tournament. ‘He’s got that X factor in attack – he can create something out of nothing and when he gets the ball, you get excited,’ says CUT coach Pieter Bergh, who uses him as a playmaker who attracts defenders and creates space on the outside. ‘Jasper scores a lot of tries and makes a lot of try assists, too.’
School: HTS Drostdy
Born: 20 June 2000
CONAN LE FLEUR
Le Fleur captained Free State in last year’s SA Rugby U21 Championship. The midfielder was one of the stars of the tournament, winning Free State’s U21 Player of the Year award. ‘He’s a complete rugby player. He has excellent skills, a good kicking game, is very physical and has that X factor,’ says NWU coach and former Springbok flyhalf Andre Pretorius. ‘I played with [Wallabies back] James O’Connor when I was at the Western Force and regarded him as the most complete player I had seen. Conan is in the same category.’
School: Glenwood High
Born: 13 December 1999
Oliphant can play both inside and outside centre but is expected to start this year’s Varsity Cup in the Madibaz’s No 13 jersey. He is an explosive player with senior rugby experience, having represented the Cheetahs in the Provincial Rugby Challenge. ‘Aya has an eye for a gap and is a very good playmaker,’ says Madibaz coach Andre Tredoux. The 23-year-old is also a solid defender who does not shy away from midfield physicality.
School: Grey High
Born: 3 March 1998
After making a couple of appearances for UJ in last year’s Varsity Cup, Osuagwu played for the Lions U21 team that reached the final of the SA Rugby U21 Championship. The 21-year-old is a strong ball-carrier who enjoys the physical aspect of the game. ‘He’s a talented boy who’s grown a lot over the last two years and I’m excited to see how he does in his second Varsity Cup campaign,’ says UJ coach Dewey Swartbooi.
School: Parktown Boys’ High
Born: 29 December 1999
Solaan is a powerful and skillful No 12 who dominates in contact, distributes well and is an excellent defender. Solaan is from Patensie but lives in Hankey, both small farming towns in the Eastern Cape. He attended Grey High School in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and played for Eastern Province at the U18 Craven Week. He then signed for Western Province, who he represented at U19 and U21 levels, and played his first season of Varsity Cup in 2020.
School: Grey High
Born: 22 February 1999
Photo: Dominic Barnardt/Varsity Sports