Rhyno Smith © Gallo Images
The much-anticipated exhibition match between the Varsity Cup Dream Team and Junior Springboks, taking place at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on 25 April 2017, has become far more than just a friendly match between two teams.
Junior Bok and former FNB Maties coach Chean Roux has selected a number of current and former FNB Varsity Cup stars to join his Junior Bok training set-up.
The very first time an exhibition match of this nature was played, was back in 2015 when FNB Shimlas’ Varsity Cup-winning coach, Franco Smith, lost 31-24 to the Junior Boks in Stellenbosch. The Junior Boks were thoroughly outplayed in the first half and came back strongly in the second half to secure a victory. It was also a golden opportunity for Varsity Cup players to be noticed by provincial franchises, with the majority of those players now signed to various provincial franchises.
What makes the Varsity Cup Dream Team that much more spectacular, is that it’s not only Varsity Cup players who are in the running, but also Varsity Shield players. Innocent Radebe made four appearances for FNB UKZN Impi during the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International, scoring 44 points along the way, and FNB Wits 29-24. He is now contracted to the Sharks as a fly-half.
FNB NWU-Pukke player, Rhyno Smith, was a key asset in the 2015 Varsity Cup Dream Team. Not only did he score a try but he also added points with his boot. During the 2016 Varsity Cup final, he emerged as the match-winner, converting a Marno Redelinghuys try scored some ten minutes into injury time at the end of their match against FNB Maties at Danie Craven Stadium, securing FNB NWU-Pukke’s first-ever Varsity Cup title. Smith is also currently contracted to the Sharks as a fullback.
The other try-scorer of that match between the Varsity Cup Dream Team and Junior Boks, Dillon Smit, of FNB NWU-Pukke, represented the Leopards before being drafted into the Lions squad. The month following his Varsity Cup Dream Team match, he was named on the bench for the Lions' Super Rugby match against the Waratahs in Johannesburg. He is currently contracted to the Golden Lions.
Namibian-born centre, Johan Deysel, represented Namibia in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and was contracted to the Sharks at the beginning of 2017, after playing for the Leopards since 2014. Wiaan Liebenberg, who used to play for FNB UP-Tuks, now runs out for Montpellier after completing his stint at the Bulls.
After coaching Treviso in Italy, Franco Smith returned to his former club, Free State Cheetahs, where he was re-appointed in his former role as backline coach. He was also appointed as the head coach of the FNB UFS-Shimlas’ Varsity Cup side, and guided them to their first-ever Varsity Cup title in his first season in charge of the side, in 2015.
According to Varsity Cup rules, the winning Varsity Cup coach is afforded the opportunity to coach the Varsity Cup Dream Team. In May 2015, following their narrow defeat to the Junior Boks, Smith took over as head coach of the Free State Cheetahs – both Currie Cup and Super Rugby teams. Under him, the Free State Cheetahs charged to Currie Cup glory in 2016. In 2017, Smith was appointed assistant coach of the Springboks.
Looking back just two years will leave this year’s Varsity Cup Dream team full of hope. Which Varsity Cup stars will we be looking back at two years from now, as they don the Green and Gold of the Springboks?