Two of South Africa’s best club players are “living the dream” as the newest beneficiaries of the Gold Cup’s highly successful international player exchange programme.
Wing Clinton Wagman of Progress Rugby Club in George – who last week kicked off their maiden Gold Cup campaign with a win – and loose forward Siphamandla Dama of Belhar RFC in Cape Town will spend the next few months playing for Scottish first-division club Selkirk.
The pair were identified following their eye-catching performances in a series of televised Gold Cup qualifying matches held earlier this year as part of the new SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
The player exchange is part of an ongoing collaboration between SA Rugby, the British High Commission and Selkirk, aimed at giving the country’s best club players an once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience living and playing rugby in another country.
“The Gold Cup is all about providing club players with amazing opportunities and this exchange programme, now into its fourth year, is a great example of that,” said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux. “Clinton and Siphamandla are getting the chance to experience rugby life in Scotland and we are confident that they will return as better players who are able to move up to higher levels of the game.
“These are the types of opportunities that the Gold Cup platform is creating for our ordinary club players, and long may it continue,” Roux added.
Both players have made an immediate impact for their new club. Wagman has scored two tries in as many matches while Dama made his debut on Saturday in Selkirk’s win over Dundee, which has propelled the club to the top of the log.
The exchange programme has been a resounding success since its inception. Wesbank flyhalf Dashston Wellman, who spent the 2014/15 season at Selkirk, is currently into his second season of professional rugby in France, while 2015/16 player Leon du Plessis of Rustenburg Impala played a match for the Edinburgh franchise before winning the SA club player of the year award for the second year running in 2016.
Last year’s Gold Cup forward and back of the tournament, Brakpan hooker Ian Oosthuizen and College Rovers wing Tythan Adams, became cult heroes at Selkirk before returning to South Africa earlier this season. Oosthuizen signed a contract with the Boland Cavaliers while Adams capped a whirlwind 12 months by representing the Springbok Sevens Academy side in France and making his Currie Cup debut for the Sharks last month.
Adams was on Tuesday named in a strong SA Rugby Sevens Academy team to take part in the Oktoberfest Sevens in Munch at the end of the month.
“Tythan epitomises what the Gold Cup is all about,” said Roux.
“He was an excellent junior player but for some reason slipped off the radar. The Gold Cup, much as it did with Garth April in 2015, has given him a lifeline that previously did not exist, a pathway back to professional rugby. For this reason alone the tournament is vitally important to South African rugby.
“Club players must look at the likes of Clinton, Siphamandla and Tythan and realise that if they too have dreams of professional rugby, the Gold Cup can provide them with the platform to show what they can do.”
The Gold Cup – SA Rugby’s flagship international club rugby champions’ league for non-university clubs from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe – is currently on the go, with the third round of pool matches taking place across all three countries this Saturday.
Two leading players from this year’s Gold Cup will become the next beneficiaries of the player exchange with Selkirk.