As the year draws to its close, ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE picks out five players who have impressed in the domestic season to date.
Vincent Tshituka (22)
One of the more undercelebrated members of this young Lions team, Tshituka has nevertheless quietly become one of their best. In what feels like a breakthrough season for the young flank, he’s beginning to start consistently and is making the blindside jersey his own.
Tshituka is the archetypical Lions back row player – less bulk more dynamism (with a deceptive turn of pace mixed in for good measure). At only 22 years of age you can expect a big future for the young man.
Cornal Hendricks (32)
Everyone loves a comeback story and Hendricks’ ranks as good a one as you’re likely to find. After a heart condition seemingly ended his rugby career prematurely, Hendricks has battled the odds and remarkably is back playing rugby. And seriously good rugby at that!
After making the switch to inside centre (a move that has proven inspired) Hendricks has offered the Bulls an incisiveness on attack that has been long absent from Loftus. His sevens skills have been at the fore as he’s made plenty of line-breaks but also distributed the ball nicely to his lethal outside backs.
Zak Burger (22)
One should always exercise caution in making comparisons between players but there’s more than a hint of a young Faf de Klerk about Zak Burger. It may be the way he constantly looks to up the tempo of the game; his propensity to attack the fringes of rucks; his dogged defence; or simply the unmistakeable haircut!
Whatever it may be, Burger has been a standout in a pretty average Griquas team this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a few contract offers come his way soon. Hopefully he will remain in the country and should his career continues at the current rate, who knows where it could go?
Dylan Richardson (21)
One of the most talented forwards in the country, the former hooker has found his home at openside flank this season. The switch to the back row has allowed Richardson to free up his game and now he’s really making waves. The Sharks man is undoubtedly one of the best players over the ball in South Africa and playing at flank allows him to attack more breakdowns.
When he’s not stealing possession he’s being a total nuisance. Richardson (who could not be more of a Durban boytjie if he tried) recently managed to get under the skin of Duane Vermeulen – not an easy man to rattle. It’s precisely that type of niggle that has made him so effective this season. Everyone wants some skulduggery from their openside!
Angelo Davids (21)
Mercurial and fleet of foot, the sevens convert has shone in a disjointed Province backline. Davids has been starved of possession but never fails to make an impact when he eventually does get ball in hand.
Though his career is very much in its infancy, there’s an electricity about Davids’ play that gives the impression he’ll go far. His lightning pace and ability to step off both feet will no doubt draw comparison to a certain Springbok winger who also played for Province once upon a time…
It is worth noting that of the five standouts I have chosen, four are under the age of 23. It’s encouraging to see the quality and intent of so many youngsters and suggests that South African rugby is in rude health. The future looks bright.