Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe became the latest Test Springbok to emerge from the Western Province Rugby Institute, but another player from the WPRI stable was capped at international level this past weekend.
Whilst Malherbe passed a tricky test in Cardiff against Six Nations champions Wales on Saturday, earlier in the day flyhalf Tommy Allan – a member of the 2012 WPRI intake – made a try-scoring debut for Italy (against the Wallabies) in Torino.
Allan, the nephew of former Scotland and Springbok hooker John Allan, was born in Italy in 1993 whilst his father was playing rugby in the country, but he was schooled in the United Kingdom and capped for Scotland at Under-18 and Under-20 level.
He spent six months with the WP Rugby Institute after finishing his schooling in the UK (in 2011) and then returned to Cape Town for the whole of 2012, which saw him play for the Scotland Under-20 team and the victorious DHL Western Province Under-19 team in the same year.
Allan returned to Europe after his time at the Institute and was snapped up by French Top 14 club Perpignan. He seemed destined to play for Scotland until he was sounded out by Italian rugby scouts – who had known about his Italian roots – which resulted in him making his international off the bench this past weekend.
WPRI CEO Jacques Hanekom explained to www.wprugby.com: “Tommy made a big impression here, playing in the WP Under-19 team which won the Absa Under-19 Provincial Competition in Durban last year.
“He initially learnt his rugby at the Wasps Academy and London Scottish (club), but we’re pleased to have played a role, in some way, in Tommy’s development before he went back to Europe.”
Malherbe’s debut, meanwhile, was a massive moment for Hanekom – the 22-year-old tighthead prop joining fellow WPRI graduates, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and JJ Engelbrecht in the Bok matchday squad at the weekend.
“Frans has progressed through the ranks swiftly since leaving the Institute,” said Hanekom.
“He’s a quality player and has worked especially hard this year after being injured during Super Rugby. It’s scary to think that, as a prop, his best years are still ahead of him but we’re immensely proud of him and all the guys in the 23 against Wales.
“Wouldn’t it also be great to see Scarra Ntubeni and Louis Schreuder getting an opportunity against Scotland this weekend? And let’s not forget players like Steven Kitshoff and Nizaam Carr who are still young enough to make their mark at the highest level,” added the WPRI boss.
“It’s always a proud moment for us when one of our players steps up to Test level and even though a player like JJ (Engelbrecht) has moved on from Western Province and someone like Tommy Allan is playing for Italy and could easily have played for Scotland too, we are producing players capable of playing Test rugby across the globe.
“The reality is that you cannot keep every single player that comes through the Institute, but when the core of your DHL WP/DHL Stormers team is made of the likes of Kitshoff, Malherbe, Ntubeni, Etzebeth, Kolisi, Carr, Schreuder, Kolbe… all of whom are aged between 20 and 23… you’d have to say that things are on the right track in terms of junior and senior recruitment.”
Looking ahead, some of the country’s best young rugby talent – including ten SA Schools players from 2013 – will form part of the Western Province Rugby Institute intake for the 2014 season.
Of those ten SA Schools players, five hail from within the Western Cape – and played for the unbeaten DHL WP Craven Week team in 2013 – with an additional five moving to Stellenbosch from outside the province.
Said Hanekom: “It’s nice to know that players from outside our region are choosing the Western Province Rugby Institute above other institutions – it says a lot about the work we have been doing here and the belief these players have in the WPRI.
“We look forward to working with the new intake and we will do our utmost to help these talented junior players develop even more.”