In the fourth 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 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.
Loose forward has been an area of traditional strength for Springbok teams. One only has to look at the number of flanks and eighthmen currently plying their trade overseas to affirm this.
The next generation will be no different. When the likes of captain Siya Kolisi, veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen and World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit do call it a day on their Test careers, there will be a host of players waiting to take their chance.
With incumbent Duane Vermeulen set to turn 34 this year, the Bok coaches will need to start thinking about his long-term successor. The good news is that there is no lack of depth in this area, with Sikhubuzo Notshe, Marcell Coetzee and Dan du Preez all in excellent form and waiting in the wings.
However, if Jacques Nienaber wants to bring someone into the squad in an apprenticeship role to start learning under Vermeulen, there are two names that stand out.
Juarno Augustus is a more like-for-like successor to Vermeulen. At 116kg, Augustus is built for Test rugby. While his early provincial career has been blighted by successive injuries, he appears to have recovered and was showing the form that earned him the 2017 Junior World Player of the Year title before the Vodacom Super Rugby season was suspended. Described by Stormers coach John Dobson as someone with a diesel engine, ‘Trokkie’ Augustus is certainly physically ready for the rigours of Test rugby.
On the opposite end of the scale, there is Hacjivah Dayimani. The Lions player tips the scale at just under 100kg, but more than makes up for this with his skill, commitment and out-and-out speed. He has definitely shown that his build doesn’t affect his physicality and has put in some brilliant defensive performances at Super Rugby level. Dayimani had a stint with the Blitzboks in 2019 – which he said reinvigorated him physically and mentally – and could potentially make the move to sevens more permanent in the future. But if the Springboks want to keep a player with real X factor in fifteens, they would be wise to convince the Lions to keep him.
Victory for the SA 7s Academy side in Dubai. They defeated the Ramblin Jesters 28-12 to take the International Invitation title. A try by Hacjivah Dayimani and a hat trick by Angelo Davids did the job for the Academy side after they trailed by 12 points. @Dubai7s #Blitzboks pic.twitter.com/ial4os3D62
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 7, 2019
Apart from these two, there are a bunch of players who could make their provincial breakthroughs in the coming cycle. Vodacom Bulls player Muller Uys will be learning from Vermeluen at franchise level and has already shown leadership qualities when he captained the Bulls U21 team to the provincial title in 2019. Over in Durban, the Sharks have two promising players in 2019 Junior Springbok captain Phepsi Buthelezi and 20-year-old Evan Roos, both of whom have made their senior debuts already.
The Cheetahs have lured George Cronje back from France and he could be thrown in the deep end with Gideon van Wyk next season. The Lions poached rookie Francke Horn from Western Province, who have an excellent player themselves in Adrian Paarwater. Meanwhile, Elrigh Louw has produced some promising performances for a struggling Kings side after moving to Port Elizabeth last year.
In the Varsity Cup, Travis Gordon – who captained SA Schools in 2017 – has been solid for Wits, while Marcel Theunissen has been in inspired form in the loose trio for Maties.
Current contenders: Juarno Augustus, Hacjivah Dayimani.
Future prospects: Muller Uys, Phepsi Buthelezi, Evan Roos, George Cronje, Francke Horn, Travis Gordon, Adrian Paarwater, Gideon van Wyk, Elrigh Louw, Marcel Theunissen, Ewart Potgieter.
Set to turn 28 years old this year, Pieter-Steph du Toit could well play Test rugby beyond the next World Cup in 2023. Both he and captain Siya Kolisi – who has spoken about turning down overseas offers due to his involvement in charities in South Africa – will be central to the Springboks over the next four years.
Though he currently wears the openside shirt for the Cheetahs, Junior Pokomela has all the qualities to come through at Test rugby level as a blindside. The 23-year-old has already made over 50 appearances for the Cheetahs in all competitions and his work rate has been key to their push for a place in the PRO14 playoffs. His performance in the 2019 Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks is indicative of his talent and he has signed a two-year contract extension with the Cheetahs this year.
The Lions have something of a rough diamond in Vincent Tshituka. The robust 21-year-old only made his Super Rugby debut for the Lions last year but has since been a recurring name in their starting lineup. If he can refine his work on defence, Tshituka could very well be set for a Springbok call-up in the future.
Below these two, Junior Springbok and Sharks flank Celimpilo Gumede leads a host of players who could play Super Rugby and beyond in the next cycle.
Current contenders: Vincent Tshituka, Junior Pokomela.
Future prospects: Celimpilo Gumede, Uzile Tele, Sibusiso Sangweni, Hanru Sirgel, Jarrod Taylor, Keketso Morabe, Jaco Labuschagne.
Jaco Coetzee and James Venter’s form for the Stormers and Sharks would not have gone unnoticed by the Bok coaching staff. Both are 23 years old at the time of writing and could very well warrant a place in an extended Springbok squad later this year.
With Francois Louw having retired, the Springboks will be looking for someone who can fill his role in playing to the ball and being a general nuisance at the breakdown.
The Sharks have another solid fetcher in Dylan Richardson, who was equally destructive with ball in hand during the 2019 U20 World Championships. However, the Durban side seems intent on turning him into a hooker. Western Province, meanwhile, have two equally gifted opensides in Nama Xaba – who was named in the Stormers’ Super Rugby squad this year – and U21 star Gift Dlamini.
Current contenders: Jaco Coetzee, James Venter.
Future prospects: Dylan Richardson, Stephan Smit, Nama Xaba, Gift Dlamini, Vian Fourie, Mark Snyman.
Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images