There are several stalwarts who will be determined to prove the old adage that there is no substitute for experience during this Vodacom Super Rugby season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Understandably, much of the pre-season buildup has revolved around identifying the up-and-coming young stars who could shine brightly in Super Rugby this year.
Hell, who doesn’t want to watch the likes of Tyrone Green, Aphelele Fassi, Johan du Toit and Manie Libbok tear it up for their respective franchises!?
After the Boks’ World Cup success, and the usual post-tournament departure of some key performers, it’s a season where we’d hope to see the next-generation youngsters provide a reminder that there is plenty of talent coming through on the SA rugby conveyer belt.
But, in the interests of defying any ageism tendencies, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there are some gnarly veterans who will be hoping to provide that guiding hand of a respected elder.
Last year, ‘Oom’ Schalk Brits personified the notion that age is just a number, and while he has now headed into retirement at the ripe old age of 38, the Vodacom Bulls clearly remain openminded to the value of veterans.
Josh Strauss, Juandre Kruger and Morne Steyn are all back in blue – at the ages of 33, 34 and 35, respectively!
Yet, all three players started in the SuperHero Sunday match against the Lions last weekend, and there is every reason to believe they will have far more than just a mentorship role to play this season.
The same can be said for 37-year-old Jannie du Plessis, who effectively came out of semi-retirement to surprisingly join the Lions.
‘I was planning to quit; I’d have called you a liar had you said I was going to play for the Lions,’ he joked in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine when reflecting on the move. However, he also reiterated that he had every desire to prove that there was some life left in his old legs.
And, when the Lions take on the Sharks, he may also share a chuckle and reminisce over a drink with former teammate JP Pietersen – another veteran who has returned to Super Rugby for his swansong.
The 33-year-old wing will most likely struggle to find a regular place in the Sharks match 23, but in a youthful squad, he will have plenty of experience and wisdom to impart.
Over at the Stormers, Jano Vermaak will also surely be providing plenty of top tips to Bok superstar Herschel Jantjies, but the 35-year-old will not have shelved any desire to push for game time, too.
Similarly, the Stormers’ surprise recruitment of Welshman Jamie Roberts could shake up some of the midfield plans that coach John Dobson may have once harboured. The 33-year-old could well emerge as a surprise package in his Super Rugby debut.
So, as a new season approaches, don’t forget about these golden oldies as they look to age like a fine red wine in their final rugby sojourns.
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