The next young gun

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF sports@city­

Who will be South African rugby’s next young gun to em­u­late the likes of Lood de Jager when the 2016 Var­sity Cup kicks off to­mor­row evening? That will be the ques­tion oc­cu­py­ing the minds of pro­vin­cial coaches as they run the rule over the cream of the coun­try’s stu­dent tal­ent.

Early in the 2012 sea­son, big Lodewyk de Jager was play­ing for North-West Univer­sity’s Un­der-20s in the Var­sity Cup Young Guns com­pe­ti­tion.

Two years later, on June 14 2014, he made his de­but (off the bench) for the Spring­boks against Wales in Dur­ban at the age of 21.

The lanky young­ster with the baby face was spot­ted in the mi­nor com­pe­ti­tion by then Free State Chee­tahs coach Naka Drot­ské and of­fered a chance in the big leagues.

Even though De Jager had seem­ingly been over­looked by his age-group coaches, Drot­ské spot­ted his height, weight, work rate and pal­pa­ble joy at get­ting in­volved in the rough and tum­ble – and his gut feel was soon re­warded.

Fel­low Bok lock Eben Etze­beth made a sim­i­lar step up by turn­ing out for the Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT) Ikeys, as did Damian de Al­lende. Oupa Mo­hojé grabbed his chance with the Free State Shim­las.

Josh Strauss went from Maties to cap­tain­ing the Lions to a Cur­rie Cup vic­tory and then went on to be­ing capped for Scot­land. A num­ber of other Spring­boks have seen stu­dent ac­tion.

The brain­child of for­mer Spring­bok cap­tain Fran­cois Pien­aar, the Var­sity Cup and its sub­sidiary com­pe­ti­tions, the Var­sity Shield, the Young Guns and Koshuis, have been a huge suc­cess; the matches slot in on Mon­day nights and pro­vide play­ers who might have slipped through the net with a chance to ex­cel.

In to­mor­row night’s main game, 2014 win­ners Ikeys will take on de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Shim­las at UCT’s Green Mile.



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