The fairytale rise of Canan Moodie from ball boy to the Vodacom Bulls and then to the Springboks has set the tone and provided the inspiration for a host of young players to follow him.

And with Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White appointing Gert Smal to clearly identify young talent in their ranks, and Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen saying he believes their current Under-23 team is the best in the world, this second season of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship does indeed seem primed for another burst of young South African rugby talent.

“I’ve given Gert Smal the project to look after our juniors and to give me a report of all our juniors he feels have a future at the Vodacom Bulls," said White

"Then more importantly, we need to know what to do to put them on the right pathway. He’ll also spend a lot of time with the junior coaches to make sure we replicate there what we do with our senior players."

Van Rooyen is equally excited about the young talent at his disposal: “I think we have the best Under-23 team in the world. If you add your mixture of senior players in there, it’s really exciting.

"We back our junior system and we pick very young. It’s sometimes a challenge for us but it’s great for South African rugby. When you keep breeding 30 youngsters a year over four franchises, so that’s roughly 100 youngsters a year who get exposure to this competition, and that’s when you get the Canan Moodie fairytale.

Canan Moodie was one of the finds of the opening season of the Vodacom URC.

Canan Moodie was one of the finds of the opening season of the Vodacom URC.

"May that be us this season. I can mention five or six names I think are capable of doing the same over the next two years.”

Sacha Mngomezulu, who had a brief taste of Vodacom United Rugby Championship action with the victorious DHL Stormers last season, certainly believes in the power of the competition to provide a clear pathway to the rugby dreams of young players under this season’s theme of “United We Rise”.

“Canan is one of my friends and I was with him at the Junior Springboks," said Mngomezulu.

"Watching his rise has made a lot of us realise it’s very tangible. Canan puts in a ton of hard work and he’s an example of what can be achieved playing in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. He’s given a lot of us youngsters hope.

“The competition provides worldwide exposure for us. It’s an exciting competition you want to be a part of.

"From my little taste of it last season, it’s definitely something I want to be part of again this season. I just want to get into the match day 23 as often as possible and be in the mix – whether it be at 10 or 12 or at 15. Wherever it is. I’ll run on at flank if I have to just to get back on the field in this competition.”