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Top graduates of the Varsity Cup.

01 February 2019, by: Leonard Solms


South Africa’s annual top-tier inter-university rugby competition, the Varsity Cup, is set to kick off on 4 February. To whet your appetite, we look back on some of the finest players ever to grace varsity rugby.

Aphiwe Dyantyi is hot property at present, having won World Rugby’s 2018 Breakthrough Player of the Year award. However, were it not for the Varsity Cup, the Lions winger’s career might well have never taken off.

Having failed to make Dale College’s first team, Dyantyi gave up on rugby and took up soccer, which he played at the University of Johannesburg while studying a Bachelor of Commerce.

However, having been convinced by friends to join his residence’s internal rugby league team, he soon found himself being picked for UJ in the Varsity Cup. From there, he has never looked back.

The Springbok hooker is another product of UJ’s Varsity Cup side, having starred for them in the 2013 tournament. He gave the nation a taste of what was to come, scoring four tries in eight games.

The powerful 24-year-old has shone for the Lions and South Africa in the years since. He made his Vodacom Cup debut in 2014, and within two years, he was a Springbok.

Marx picked up the Lions’ Super Rugby Player of the Year, Supporters Player of the Year, Players Player of the Year and Most Valued Player of the Year awards in 2017.

Eben Etzebeth’s breakthrough came in the 2011 Varsity Cup, during the UCT Ikey Tigers’ winning campaign. Although injury kept him out of the Currie Cup later that year, he earned selection for the Stormers’ Super Rugby squad in 2012.

The lock made his Springbok debut in June of that year against England, and regularly captained his country during Allister Coetzee’s spell as coach.

Mostert featured for UP Tuks in three Varsity Cup campaigns from 2010 to 2012. While some of his Springbok team-mates enjoyed meteoric rises after featuring in the tournament, the lock-cum-flanker’s road to the top was not quite as smooth.

Having made his breakthrough at the Blue Bulls, Mostert endured a disastrous first year at the Lions in 2013. A broken hip sustained in a car accident kept him on the sidelines. However, he eventually fought his way to the top, making his Springbok debut in 2016.

Another player whose career has taken several twists and turns, Senatla rose to prominence while playing for the Central University of Technology Ixias in the 2012 Varsity Shield — the tier below the Varsity Cup.

He was soon snapped up by the Blitzboks and made his debut for them the following year. Senatla soon became one of the most respected speedsters in the Sevens World Series, also starring for the Stormers.

There is little left for him to achieve on the Sevens circuit, but in the 15-a-side game, it is highly likely that we have not yet seen the best of the 25-year-old winger.


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Leonard Solms is a sports journalist who features regularly on various local and international platforms including ESPN, New Frame, FARPost, Tagged Online and Careers Magazine, as well as this one. He enjoys the occasional bet and the most important tip he can give you is to bet within your means.

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