In the third 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 previous instalments, 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.
With Handre Pollard (27) and Elton Jantjies (29) still in their prime, there isn’t an immediate need to throw any young flyhalf into the starting lineup.
However, reports from the Bok camp have made it clear that SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus wants to see the Springboks build up a healthy amount of depth to their squad – so they will have to identify someone who can settle in the No 10 jersey at Test-rugby level.
Sharks playmaker Curwin Bosch has forced his way back into the conversation with brilliant displays this year. With the full backing of coach Sean Everitt, Bosch has finally been given a proper run at 10 and the consistency has certainly paid off.
Doubts over Bosch’s suitability to Test level have arisen from his perceived defensive frailties, which is what led to him being shifted to fullback in the first place.
However, he has shown this year that with the full backing of a coach, he can more than make up for that with his vision and booming boot which were key to the Sharks’ run this season.
Meanwhile, Manie Libbok has experienced a similar roller-coaster ride of an early career at the Vodacom Bulls. Playing behind Pollard meant that he was only really given a good run at flyhalf during the Currie Cup. While it seemed that 2020 may finally be his year to step out of Pollard’s shadow, the return of veteran Morne Steyn to Loftus Versfeld once again relegated him to the role of substitute.
A move to the Sharks during the Currie Cup has now been rumoured as it seems incoming Bulls director of rugby Jake White wants to give Libbok the opportunity to get more game time.
Granted, Libbok has not always been the most consistent of players but it is no coincidence that the Bulls’ attack looked at its deadliest when he was paired with Embrose Papier. He is still a player that can develop into a world-class talent.
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) April 12, 2020
Below those two, there are a host of promising players who may have the potential to go all the way in their careers. At the Sharks, 21-year-old Boeta Chamberlain has already made his Super Rugby debut and looked comfortable in his first start away to the Hurricanes – which ultimately became a cameo as he was forced off early with a concussion.
The Sharks also have 23-year-old ex-Maties playmaker Jordan Chait – who showed his potential in the Varsity Cup – in their ranks.
Over in the Western Cape, David Coetzer has shown talent for the Junior Springboks and Western Province U21 side but has since moved to the Bulls, while UCT flyhalf James Tedder and Maties player Juan Mostert are also players to watch.
Looking further north and the Lions may have already found Elton Jantjies’ long-term successor when they scooped James Mollentze from the Cheetahs. The Bulls also have a promising young player in Theo Boshoff, who has shown incredible big-match temperament for their U21 side and for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup.
Current contenders: Curwin Bosch, Manie Libbok.
Future prospects: James Mollentze, Boeta Chamberlain, Jordan Chait, Theo Boshoff, David Coetzer, James Tedder, Juan Mostert, Kade Wolhuter, Kian Meadon, Sacha Mngomezulu.
World Cup scrumhalves Faf de Klerk (28), Cobus Reinach (30) and Herschel Jantjies (24) could all still be in and around the squad by 2023, but Erasmus and Nienaber will want to start planning for what happens next.
Fortunately, much like at flyhalf, South Africa has a healthy bunch of talented scrumhalves coming through the ranks. Embrose Papier may have seen his World Cup dreams dashed by Jantjies’ meteoric rise in 2019 but rediscovered his love for the game through a stint in Manchester with the Sale Sharks. The 23-year-old certainly looked rejuvenated in the 2020 season and was pushing Ivan van Zyl for a starting role at the Bulls.
Much like 2019 was Jantjies’ year, 2020 may be a year to remember for Sanele Nohamba. The Sharks player may still be learning his craft under the experienced Louis Schreduer, but made an impact whenever he was on the field.
He even showed his versatility by playing the better part of 60 minutes at flyhalf against the Hurricanes. Nohamba’s maturity and composure caught the eye of national selectors and he may still earn a spot in an extended squad later this year – if Test rugby returns.
Sanele Nohamba… remember the name pic.twitter.com/13YD2ugiyV
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) January 31, 2020
One of the finds of the season, Lions scrumhalf Morne van den Berg, may be a dark horse for a place in the Springbok squad. The 22-year-old was playing at fullback for Wits in 2019, but was surprisingly included in the Lions’ 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby squad. However, he quickly won over the Ellis Park faithful with his controlled aggression on defence and pace around the fringes, reminding them of De Klerk.
— Varsity Cup (@varsitycup) February 5, 2019
Meanwhile, Junior Springboks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse heads up the No 9s coming through the junior ranks. The Sharks player’s assured displays earned him a nomination for World Rugby U20 Player of the Year after his first Junior World Championships in 2019. Despite turning 19 last year, Hendrikse already demonstrated an accomplished kicking game but also has the pace to make him a threat in open play.
Current contenders: Embrose Papier, Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg.
Future prospects: Jaden Hendrikse, Thomas Bursey, Lucky Dlepu, Deon Carstens, Liam Kloosman, Dylan Alexander.
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix