With Riaan Oberholzer and John Dobson at the helm, Western Province Rugby is poised to make the most of the world’s most talent-rich region, according to MARK KEOHANE.
The recent success of the Junior Springboks has served a timely reminder of the peerless volume of talent produced in the Western Cape, an abundance that has been the bedrock of rugby in this country.
“Born in Kuilsriver in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and raised as one of those thousands of rugby-playing schoolboys, I have always believed the Western Cape should be the strongest rugby region in world rugby,” Keohane wrote in his Sunday Times column.
“The professional teams, the Stormers and Western Province, should always be the beneficiaries of this incredible feeder system if the right administration is in place. I believe we may finally be getting there in WP Rugby, and any private equity investor will know that the reach of investment goes way beyond the Stormers and WP.”
The Junior Boks went unbeaten in the recent Six Nations Summer Series in Italy and Keohane did a stocktake on the number of players drafted in from Western Cape schools.
“Rondebosch Boys’ High (2), Paarl Gym (3), Paul Roos (1), Paarl Boys High (4), Bishops (4) and SACS (1) made up 50% of the squad.
“That is a remarkable return and the most powerful statement about the healthy state of rugby in the Western Cape, the region that is currently home to the inaugural United Rugby Championship trophy.”
Aside from the Stormers, the success of the Junior Boks bodes well for the future of the Springboks.
“SA’s biggest success stories in the past 20 years have come with two of the best Junior Springboks cycles, when Jake White’s kids won the world championship and Peter de Villiers’s kids won the world championship.
“Some of the Springbok and world rugby’s best players came from those two respective cycles, with Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Fourie du Preez among the many who went on to play Test rugby.”
Handre Pollard, a product of Paarl Gymnasium, was integral to the Junior Boks’ title run in 2012, but has spent his senior club career in Pretoria or abroad.
“Western Province has spent the best part of a decade bemoaning letting the country’s leading Springbok flyhalf, raised and schooled at one of the most traditional rugby schools in the Western Cape, leave the Cape,” wrote Keohane.
“I don’t see the new administration and interim board at Western Province making the same mistake. Not with Rian Oberholzer’s influence and not with John Dobson as head coach of the championship-winning URC DHL Stormers.
“Oberholzer is the most experienced rugby administrator in SA and among the most revered internationally — and he has in the past year added stability to what was a crumbling professional set-up at Western Province. Dobson has transformed the Stormers, in selection and in results.
“Both men have a very strong appreciation of the strength and value of schools rugby in the Western Cape and also of the added presence that comes through the respective universities in the region – with Stellenbosch and UCT playing in the Varsity Shield and the UWC having dabbled between the Varsity Cup and the Varsity Shield, but in that period having produced two Springboks in scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse.”