Cape Town - Caroline Rupert, the person who provided a bursary for Damian Willemse to attend Paul Roos Gymnasium, says she is immensely proud of the young rugby player’s achievements.
READ: Damian Willemse to become Paul Roos' first Springbok player of colour
The 20-year-old Willemse is set to make his Springbok debut after being included on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby Championship encounter against Argentina in Durban.
If he takes to the field, Willemse will also become the first ever player of colour from Paul Roos to play a Test for the Springboks.
He will become Paul Roos' 53rd Bok, with the Stellenbosch-based school having produced the greatest number of Springboks in South Africa.
Rupert, who is the daughter of renowned businessman Johann Rupert, helped make the young Stormers star’s dream a reality when she spotted his talents at a young age.
Rupert spoke exclusively to Sport24 on Friday where she explained the process behind getting Willemse enrolled at the prestigious school.
In fact, Rupert arranged for several boys from the Somerset West Methodist Primary School to attend Paul Roos.
Willemse’s older brother, Ramone Samuels, who currently plays hooker for the Stormers, was also one of the beneficiaries.
“When they were under-11, I used to go and help out there with the coaching,” Rupert said.
The youngsters were coached by Winston Baard, a friend of Rupert.
“I used to go and help out with them twice a week while Winston was coaching the team. He was always very supportive and quite happy to help me coach the kids,” she added.
Rupert said the players were flourishing under Baard’s coaching, which gave her the idea.
“They won so many games on the trot. So I got this idea that I really wanted all 17 kids in that team to get into Paul Roos. I approached Paul Roos who got scouts to come and watch the games,” Rupert said.
She added that it was “quite a process” to get all 17 kids enrolled at Paul Roos, but they somehow managed.
“Paul Roos was quite over-subscribed. But somehow we managed to get (all 17 of) them in. It was some kind of miracle," she said.
Rupert added that seeing Willemse make his Springbok debut on Saturday would be “a dream come true”.
“When we started this journey it wasn’t in our wildest expectations. It’s really quite something... beyond our dreams.”
Saturday’s Test at Kings Park is scheduled for 17:05.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse