In the first 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, 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 two obvious leading candidates to be included in the Springbok squad this year are Aphelele Fassi and Damian Willemse. One could see Fassi brought into the Bok squad as a wing, before moving across to his best position at fullback as he gains experience – similar to how incumbent Willie le Roux was deployed across both positions at the start of his Test career.
Willemse’s best position still remains contentious. However, it is quite clear that at least at Test level, his talents are best suited to the No 15 jersey – where he can roam in space to carry and counter-attack.
The good news for Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber is that South Africa does not want for numbers in promising fullback talent. Lions youngster Gianni Lombard has long been touted for great things. A bright start to his senior professional career last year was unfortunately halted by a horrible knee injury. However, should he bounce back, he can easily make a similar move as Willemse – his eye for a gap and side-stepping abilities would make him deadly at fullback.
Meanwhile, the Vodacom Bulls are particularly blessed with talent in this position as Richard Kriel, Lionel April and Vaughen Isaacs have all demonstrated their talents at either Varsity Cup or U21 provincial levels.
Current contenders: Aphelele Fassi, Damian Willemse.
Future prospects: Gianni Lombard, Richard Kriel, Lionel April, Vaughen Isaacs, Sibabalwe Xamlashe.
South Africa has never been short of talented wings and that still remains true. The good news is that at 27 and 24 years old, respectively, Cheslin Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi still have plenty of mileage left.
There are others, however, who will be quickly challenging for their places in the squad. Nkosi’s provincial teammate, Madosh Tambwe – who moved to Durban from the Lions at the end of 2019 – has already demonstrated that he can comfortably fill Bok shoes at Super Rugby level.
Tyrone Green has played the 2020 season at wing, but is versatile enough to play at fullback and even centre and would be a massive boost to any team. Kings speedster Yaw Penxe is another who the Bok coaches were reportedly tracking. Despite the instability at the Kings, Penxe’s quality has consistently shone through.
The Sharks have a promising talent on their hands in Thaakir Abrahams. Weighing in at just under 80kg, Abrahams is not the biggest player around but may have a similar impact to Cheslin Kolbe as his sleight frame and fast feet make him a nightmare to tackle.
Over in Pretoria, the Bulls have a very different talent in Stravino Jacobs – who made the move north after finishing his schooling at Paarl Gimnasium last year. The 95kg wing is a powerful carrier and rumoured to be very highly rated at Loftus Versfeld.
Further, the news of Marcel Muller’s return to South Africa with the Cheetahs is very positive. Another player to keep your eye on is Kabelo Mokuena, who was impressive in the Varsity Cup for UP-Tuks and set to earn Junior Springbok colours this year.
Current contenders: Madosh Tambwe, Tyrone Green, Yaw Penxe.
Future prospects: Thaakir Abrahams, Stravino Jacobs, Kabelo Mokouena, Marcel Muller.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets