New Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has handed the final spot in his squad for next season to rookie club flyhalf Ben Volavola.
One of four up and coming Shute Shield youngsters invited to join the squad for the first two weeks of pre-season training, the 21-year-old Southern Districts pivot impressed Cheika enough to be offered a contract.
"All four players did exceptionally well to come in and perform as they did. They worked exceptionally hard and gave everything in the small window of time they had with us.
"It's hard to make a decision on such a short timeframe but Ben stood out as the type of player that we want to bring on. He grew as the two weeks progressed and from what we've seen of him, which was mostly in attack, he looks to be a dangerous player capable of taking it up levels," said Cheika.
Hearing the news from Cheika on Friday, Volavola said he couldn't quite believe it.
"I was so excited but I couldn't quite believe it - I was up against three other real quality players.
"My aims at the moment are just to have a big pre-season, learn from the experienced guys like Berrick Barnes around me to become a better rugby player and hopefully get the chance to play Super Rugby in 2013," he said.
Included in the squad predominantly as a flyhalf, it was Volavola's performances in the Southern Districts' No.15 jersey that earned him this chance.
"He shone enough at club level last season - out of position," said Cheika. "We'll look at him in both positions while he's here."
Despite having only one contract up for grabs on this occasion, Cheika also confirmed that he would pursue further opportunities for club players to be a part of the Waratahs squad, working with a recruitment network from within the New South Wales rugby community to establish a pathway to the Waratahs side from the Sydney Premiership and New South Wales country ranks.
"We represent the state as a whole. These boys all really deserved this opportunity and we're definitely looking to keep the club scene attached as much as possible. Growing our talent the best we can from within and giving deserving up and coming youngsters from this state a chance at professional rugby is an important part of what we’re about," said Cheika.
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