CRAIG LEWIS identifies five uncapped Springbok hopefuls who could be knocking on the national door in 2018.
Just a few days after being overlooked for the Springboks’ end-of-year tour squad, Smith sent out a serious reminder of his abilities as he produced a Man of the Match performance for the Barbarians against the All Blacks last November. There are continual questions over whether Smith has the necessary physical and defensive attributes to make a successful transition to Test level, but he will undoubtedly be aiming to silence his doubters in 2018. Should he continue to star for the Lions once he returns to Super Rugby from the Springbok Sevens setup, a new-look Bok coaching group may well have a very different view of the value he can add with his impact and X factor.
It was a travesty that Mapimpi never received a real look-in with the Springboks last year. Besides emerging as the joint third-highest try-scorer in the 2017 Super Rugby season (11), Mapimpi has again underlined his class with consistent impressive performances for the Cheetahs in the Pro14. The experienced winger is now set for a move to the Sharks, which he believes will provide him the best exposure to reach his Springbok dream. If Mapimpi continues to hone his defensive and aerial abilities, there is every reason to believe he could quickly come into the Bok mix.
The 19-year-old appears likely to be handed the Stormers’ No 10 jersey for this Super Rugby season, and it’s an enthralling prospect. We are sure to learn a lot more about the temperament and talent of this teenager after a full Super Rugby season, but he boasts all the raw ingredients to complete a rapid rise to Springbok contention. Willemse will need to strengthen his kicking game, while his game management in high-pressure situations is sure to come under close scrutiny. However, there is no doubt he is one of the brightest stars on the South African rugby horizon.
The powerful winger may well have already had a Springbok cap to his name if an unfortunate injury hadn’t struck him down during last year’s Currie Cup semi-finals. Nevertheless, Nkosi should come back hungrier than ever in 2018, and could well be installed as one of the Sharks’ first-choice wingers along with Mapimpi. While Nkosi’s clinical finishing caught the eye last year, it was also his willingness to get stuck in on defence that should be held in just as high regard. The 21-year-old will want to continue working on his skills under the high ball, but he is a player who clearly has all the raw ingredients to develop into a quality Test winger.
The 20-year-old was one of the unsung heroes in Western Province’s victorious Currie Cup campaign last year. He has drawn many comparisons to Schalk Burger with the manner in which he throws himself around the park, while he also has the physical attributes that have seen him impress on both defence and as a ball carrier. The Stormers are blessed with loose-forward depth, and Wiese is set to face plenty of competition for game time this Super Rugby season, but he is certainly a player to keep an eye on. Wiese also boasts useful versatility – he can play at lock or on either flank – and 2018 certainly looks set to be another big year for the youngster.
Photo: Anne Laing