In the second instalment of a new series, DYLAN JACK looks at players aged 23 and younger with the potential to provide the spine of a future Springbok side.
For clarity, as with the first instalment, I have split the players into the positions they would most likely play for the Boks as well as into sub-categories.
‘Current contenders’ are those players knocking on the door for Springbok selection, with ‘future prospects’ those still to break into their provincial side but who are still well worth investing in and keeping an eye on.
The good news for the Springboks is that there is no need to rush any young midfielders into action just yet. The World Cup combination of Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende may carry through to 2023 – while there is still Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen and even ‘forgotten’ men like Jan Serfontein and Rohan Janse van Rensburg to come in. The players listed below, therefore, can have the opportunity to develop properly at a provincial level.
Currently, the standout young midfielder warranting national attention is, of course, the Lions’ Wandisile Simelane. The 22-year-old made himself a household name when he starred for the Junior Springboks in 2017 and 2018 and carried that form over to the Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby. Strangely, he found game time tough to come by this year as he wasn’t considered for selection for the Lions’ opening fixtures, but at least restored himself to the bench before the season was halted.
Just how far can this guy go? pic.twitter.com/lYjVDGfzSd
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 10, 2019
Someone who could form a potentially deadly combination with Simelane in the future is Rikus Pretorius. The Stormers player made his senior debut in the Currie Cup last year but was restricted to the bench after the arrival of veteran Jamie Roberts. Talent-wise, Pretorius can certainly be the long-term successor to Damian de Allende as he is similarly strong when carrying the ball forward, but also has the subtle skill to put others into space. It is no surprise, then, that reports have suggested that Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White has his eyes on Pretorius.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 22, 2019
After a disastrous stint at the Sharks, Benhard Janse van Rensburg has found his feet at the Cheetahs and has been a crucial part of their push for the PRO14 playoffs this season. The 23-year-old may have started his career as a flyhalf but has settled comfortably into midfield, where his vision and skill have come in handy.
In addition, there are a host of young midfielders waiting for their chance to break through. Simelane’s Lions teammate, Manuel ‘Mannie’ Rass, made his Super Rugby debut this year and could go on to become a first-team regular.
Over at the Stormers, both Lyle Hendricks and David Kriel – brother of Bulls fullback Richard – are highly rated. Hendricks has been playing for the University of the Western Cape and was a crucial part of the team that won promotion to the Varsity Cup. Able to also double as a flyhalf, Hendricks is more of a playmaker than a De Allende-esque carrier. Meanwhile, Kriel has been earmarked by Stormers coach John Dobson as someone with a bright future.
The Bulls – who claimed the U21 provincial title last year – have their own crop of promising players. Sango Xamlashe is such a player, having been part of that U21 team and starring for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup. Xamlashe is an asset to any team with his upper-body strength and pace off the mark, making him deadly at outside centre. Similarly, Diego Appollis has been highly thought of since being recruited from Wellington by Pretoria-based high school Garsfontein. Although slim of frame, Appollis is a nippy runner and a strong tackler.
Current contenders: Wandisile Simelane, Rikus Pretorius, Benhard Janse van Rensburg.
Future prospects: David Kriel, Mannie Rass, Lyle Hendricks, Diego Appollis, Sango Xamlashe.
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix