Cape Town — It has been a difficult few weeks — actually months — for young flyhalf Kade Wolhuter.
The 21-year-old former Paul Roos Gymnasium prodigy was seen in previous years as the next big thing for the Stormers, even with Manie Libbok’s arrival in the Cape in 2021.
But it hasn’t turned out like that, with a major knee injury keeping him out of action for about a year.
Even upon his return this season, Libbok has been in outstanding form and the likes of Jean-Luc du Plessis and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu are regularly on the bench, which has meant limited game-time for Wolhuter.
His last Stormers encounter was on January 27, when the defending champions sent a weakened side to Ulster and lost 35-5 in Belfast. A swathe of injuries disrupted the backline, and while Wolhuter started at fullback, he shared the flyhalf duties with Feinberg-Mngomezulu in a disjointed combination following Du Plessis’ early exit due to concussion.
Wolhuter hasn’t featured since, but is now set to get some much-needed game-time for Western Province in the Currie Cup, starting with Saturday’s opener against the Lions at Ellis Park.
He is highly rated by Stormers coach John Dobson, who will also be taking charge of the WP side, and a few good performances could see him return to the Stormers match-23.
“I feel I always thrive and play best when I feel backed, and I feel a real sense of backing and responsibility being placed on me going into the Currie Cup season, which I really enjoy. I’m also embracing it as I love rising to the challenge and repaying those that have confidence in me,” Wolhuter said on the WP website on Thursday.
“I’m seriously excited for the competition. It’s an opportunity for game-time for me, which I’ve lacked since coming back from my knee injury. So for me, I feel I can hopefully build on games back-to-back and really make my mark in this competition, and do so by being the general in the hoops.
“I think that the competition is good, for all of us that is. It doesn’t allow us to slack, and personally, I know I have to be playing my best rugby to even be considered for selection.”
Wolhuter’s major attribute is his kicking boot, but he also has the ability to get the backline away on attack.
He will have to mix up his style accordingly at altitude against the Lions, with the fast-paced Ellis Park pitch suited to a flowing game.
“What excites me most is kicking battles — being able to manipulate other teams’ defence to find space in behind them, and exploit their defensive systems,” Wolhuter said.
“I feel my kicking game is a strength of mine: out of hand, but especially for poles. I’ve always loved the individual element of kicking for poles.
“Dobbo and the rest of the coaching staff have made it clear that we aren’t just taking part in the Currie Cup … we are expecting to win it.
“It’s been a while since we last won one, way too long for WP, so we are putting a lot of expectation on ourselves to compete and hopefully win the Currie Cup this year.”
Meanwhile, WP have announced that eight club players have been training with the Currie Cup squad, and will hopefully push for game-time as well.
CPUT prop Matthew Coenraad, Hamilton lock Mika Cowley, Milnerton loose forward Adriaan Paarwater, SK Walmers scrumhalf Labeeb Kannemeyer, Durb-Bell centre Jacquin Marthinus, False Bay centre Darren Jaftha, UWC wing Peter Williams and St Georges outside back Fazeel Robinson are the amateur players who have been identified by Jerome Paarwater, who is the head of the high-performance club rugby programme.
“We invited over 100 players from various Super League A and Super League B teams to join us for this programme at the end of the club rugby season last year,” Paarwater said.
“These players were all put on a high-performance conditioning programme, and we have worked with them to make the most of their skills and take their game to the next level.
“As a result, we were able to identify eight players to join the senior Western Province squad this week as they prepare for the Currie Cup.”