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URC: State of origin

In the early years, before the game went professional, it was the most normal thing to play for the team in the area where you were born and schooled in.

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It was only in extraordinary circumstances, where one had to relocate for work reasons, someone would play for a team other than the one from their local area be it for the club or province.

Of course, since the game took its first steps to professionalism in 1996, this narrative slowly changed and soon enough when contracts came through the front door, “loyalty” went out the back.

Players moved to different provinces for better playing opportunities and financial incentives.

We find ourselves in a climate today where your local hero isn’t necessarily all that local.

I took the liberty to look at the four South African United Rugby Championship teams’ squads and decided to see in which province and/or city the players were schooled in and how many actually ended up playing for their local team.

The Gauteng region was the hardest as we have two URC teams involved in the Bulls and Lions, which is why I worked out both percentages and the grand total as explained below.

Bulls

A team historically criticized for poaching and not producing their own talent has some merit to back it up and claim it’s not all true. With 15 percent of their talent coming from Pretoria-based schools and the other 15 percent from general Gauteng-based schools, their squad of 60 players boast 30 percent in total from the Gauteng province.

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The breakdown of the players in question is as follows:

Local: Jannes Kirsten, Reinhardt Ludwig, Bernard van der Linde, Embrose Papier, Jacques van Rooyen, Joe van Zyl, Keagan Johannes, Ruan Nortjé, Stedman Gans
(15 percent)

Gauteng based schools: Jaco van der Walt, Dylan Smith, Tiaan Lange, Marco van Staden, Ruan Vermaak, Francois Klopper, Cyle Brink, Elrich Louw, Mornay Smith (15 percent)

For a small region like Gauteng, it’s not a bad return at all, although all these players weren’t necessarily born in the region, they have been schooled there and went on to represent one of their two local franchises.

Sharks

“Where do the Sharks players sleep when they play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein? At home.”

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It is an old running joke as the Durban-based side had historically in the years of Super Rugby participation had a large contingent of Bloemfontein-based players. A team with limited school and varsity resources unlike the other three sides, they are practically forced to go outside the border (pun intended) of KwaZulu-Natal.

Out of their 54-man squad, only 22 percent went to schools in KwaZulu-Natal, with Ethan Hooker not listed on their original squad boosting that percentage slightly.

Here is the makeup of their local schools based players:

Ntutkuhu Mchunu, Fez Mbatha, Kerron van Vuuren, Dylan Richardson, James Venter, Jeandré Labuschagne, Nick Hatton, Phepsi Buthelezi, Cameron Wright, Jaden Hendrikse, Zee Mkhabela, Ethan Hooker

Lions

In a similar case to the Bulls having to fight for local resources but with a lesser budget, the Lions currently have 50 players contracted for their URC season. With most players coming from general Gauteng-based schools and a couple from Pretoria make up a proper 40 percent in total.

Below is the breakdown of their local players:

General Gauteng based schools: Reinhardt Nothnagel, Willem Alberts, Travis Gordon, Erich Cronjé, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Darrien Landsberg, Izan Esterhuizen, Morné van den Bergh, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Morné Brandon, Henco van Wyk, Emmanuel Tshituka (26 percent)

Pretoria-based schools: Corné Fourie, Jacques Lois du Toit, Johan Mulder, Ruhan Straeuli, Raynard Roets, Ruan Delport, Stean Pienaar (14 percent)

Stormers

A team that has access to a hotbed of talent in the Western Cape coming from the Boland and SWD areas as well, it’s no surprise that they boast a whopping 48 percent of locally schooled players in their 46-man squad. Head coach John Dobson has been adamant about keeping the cream of the crop of Western Cape schools talent as we have seen in recent times with Sasha Feinburg-Mngomezulu re-signing until 2027 and the return of Steven Kitshoff and JD Schickerling for next season.

Here is their breakdown of their locally based schools talent:

Evan Roos, Ben Jason Dixon, Connor Evans, Adre Smith, Salmaan Moerat, Chad Solomon, JJ Kotze, Warrick Gelant, Clayton Blommetjies, Angelo Davids, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Daniel du Plessis, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas, Courtnall Skosan, Jean Luc du Plessis, Jurie Matthee, Sasha Feinburg-Mngomezulu, Manie Libbok, Godlen Masimla, Paul de Wet, Herschel Jantjies

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