Ahead of the opening weekend of Vodacom Super Rugby, SA Rugby magazine picks four forwards to watch from the South African franchises.
Lizo Gqoboka was one of the standout South African players in the 2019 Super Rugby tournament. The loosehead prop went on to make his debut for the Springboks against Australia in the Rugby Championship and narrowly missed out on a place in the World Cup squad. Gqoboka, along with national teammate Trevor Nyakane, will have a key role to play in the scrum for the Bulls this season. His speed and ability to offload in contact will be an asset if the Bulls play a more attacking game.
There will be a youthful look to the Sharks pack this season, and it will be interesting to see if this brings about a change in approach from a set of forwards who will not be short on mobility. Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Ox Nche will bring their own fair share of flair, while World Cup-winner Thomas du Toit will anchor the scrum. However, Notshe is the man to keep your eye on. The six-cap Springbok fell out of the World Cup reckoning in 2019, but he is sure to view the 2020 season as the chance to revitalise his Test aspirations in a new environment. Blessed with talent, the 26-year-old will be determined to take his game to the next level.
Pieter-Steph du Toit has gone from strength to strength since shifting from lock to flank. The 27-year-old was the standout player at the 2019 World Cup and subsequently acknowledged with the World Rugby Player of the Year award. Unsurprisingly, his peers voted him their Player of the Year. Du Toit is one of the few big-name players who have decided to remain in South Africa after the World Cup. The Stormers will benefit from his leadership and athleticism in the big matches. How they manage such an important player in a long tournament will be a point of debate.
This season seems to hold much promise for 22-year-old Hacjivah Dayimani. The past year has been an eventful one for the prodigiously talented youngster, who went through an experimental switch from the loose trio to the backline. He then had a stint with the Springbok Sevens, where coach Neil Powell hailed his ability to fulfil a dual role in both forms of the game. Dayimani returns to the Lions for Super Rugby, and this is the year in which he will want to come of age. There is surely capacity for him to occupy a role in the back row, but after his spell with the Blitzboks, coach Ivan van Rooyen may well revisit the trial of playing him among the backs. Whatever the case may be, the athletic former South African Schools representative is undoubtedly a player to keep a close eye on.
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