JON CARDINELLI looks at the South African youngsters who are adding some spice to Vodacom Super Rugby.
It may be too early to talk about these players in a Springbok context. Coach Heyneke Meyer will have a good idea of which players will feature in 2014, and even at the 2015 World Cup. Meyer will aim for a good blend of youth and experience in the national team, although the youth component will be comprised of those already in the Bok mix.
Nevertheless, it's worth noting the promising youngsters who have made an impact in this year's Super Rugby competition, and how they may come into the national frame, post 2015.
There's reason to feel excited and confident that South African rugby will be in good hands when these players eventually ascend to the highest level.
DAMIAN DE ALLENDE, 22 (STORMERS/WP)
De Allende helped Western Province win the Currie Cup final in his rookie season (2012), and has subsequently proved that he belongs at Super Rugby level. Whether he starts at centre or wing, he lends the Stormers an imposing physical presence on both defence and attack. As showcased as Loftus Versfeld last Saturday and, indeed, throughout the 2014 season, he is surprisingly agile for such a big man, and one of the better finishers in the competition.
FAF DE KLERK, 22 (LIONS)
The Lions have long enjoyed playing the game at pace, and De Klerk is the type of player who thrives in that sort of approach. The speed and quality of his passes have enhanced the Lions' attack, as has his acceleration when he has opted to attack the space around the fringes. The Boks have a number of seasoned scrumhalf options in Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, and even Jano Vermaak, but there has been a concern that, until now, no young No 9 has put his hand up. If De Klerk can strengthen the other aspects of his game, he will become an option in future.
TEBOHO MOHOJE, 23 (CHEETAHS)
Nobody would have forgotten that try against the Crusaders at the Free State Stadium on 13 April. Mohoje beat several defenders, including All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, to finish a brilliant individual score and confirm he is a player worth monitoring. His performances since that fixture have shown that his is a raw but rare talent that needs to be nurtured. Mohoje continues to do some some exciting things with ball in hand, and his speed is an asset when the Cheetahs launch their devastating counter-attack. But if he is to take the next step, he must endeavour to become a more rounded player.
HANDRÉ POLLARD, 20 (BULLS)
The Bulls have been crying out for a flyhalf who is capable of playing a balanced game, and they seem to have found one in young Pollard. It's taken time for the Baby Boks star to settle, but he is now starting to deliver on the immense promise. His kicking from hand and for goal was flawless in last Saturday's game against the Stormers, as was his attacking play. The Bulls backline looked dangerous with ball in hand, with Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht causing some serious problems for the Stormers defence, and credit should go to Pollard for playing them into good positions. The Bulls must persist with Pollard at No 10 and allow him to develop further. He's improved a great deal in a short space of time, and it isn't stretch to suggest that he will play a lot of Tests for the Boks.
S'BURA SITHOLE, 23 (SHARKS)
This youngster seems to have it all: speed, vision, and intelligence. Sharks director of rugby Jake White has marked him as a future Bok, and has backed up this lofty statement by starting Sithole in the massively important position of outside centre. While Sithole's performances haven't been without error, he has shown immense promise, not just on attack but on defence. His good decision-making has been encouraging to see, and it's this asset rather than his exceptional speed that could see him fulfilling White's prophecy.
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