In the fifth 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 fully break into their provincial side but who are still well worth investing in and keeping an eye on.
The Springboks’ ‘Awesome Foursome’ from the 2019 World Cup – Eben Etzbeth, Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman – will carry the Boks through to the next World Cup and, in De Jager and Snyman’s case, beyond that.
However, as colleague Jon Cardinelli pointed out in his own series, Building a Bok dynasty, it won’t hurt if the Springbok coaches develop a bit of depth in this area. Marvin Orie was unlucky to miss out on selection for the World Cup squad, while there is also JD Schickerling, Jason Jenkins and Hyron Andrews to come into the squad. Equally, Cheetahs second row pair Sintu Manjezi and Walt Steenkamp – who have both been linked to moves to the Vodacom Bulls – have developed quickly.
Looking at younger options, there are a host of players who could be brought into the mix in the future – or even this year.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see either Salmaan Moerat or Cobus Wiese being named in an extended Bok squad. With South Africa looking for someone who could fill Etzebeth’s role as an abrasive enforcer, both Moerat and Wiese fit this role.
Another who could be brought in as a No 4 is Sharks rookie JJ van der Mescht. The 21-year-old would then be making a similar step up as Etzebeth, who played his first Test after just making his breakthrough at the Stormers. Van der Mescht only has a handful of appearances for the Sharks, but showed at the 2019 U20 World Championships that – at least physically – he is ready for senior rugby.
At No 5, Vodacom Bulls player Ruan Nortje has already been touted as a future Springbok by former coach Pote Human. The 21-year-old has had to wait patiently behind De Jager and Snyman, but got his chance to anchor the Bulls’ lineout before the season was halted. While Sharks player Ruben van Heerden has played in the No 4 jersey since moving to Durban, he could be a useful swinger option as his raw physicality is matched by his lineout prowess.
As far as future prospects go, there is an abundance of talent waiting to come through.
Western Cape-based duo David Meihuizen and Ben-Jason Dixon have both taken their games up a notch in the Varsity Cup this year and are clearly ready for more regular game time with the Stormers. The Sharks have another promising lock in Emile van Heerden, who has the potential to replicate father Fritz and go all the way in his career.
Current contenders: Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat, Cobus Wiese, Ernst van Rhyn, JJ van der Mescht, Ruan Nortje.
Future prospects: Ruan Vermaak, Reinhard Nothnagel, David Meihuizen, Ben-Jason Dixon, Dylan de Leeuw, Lunga Ncube, Emile van Heerden, Adrian Alberts, Malembe Mpofu, Sihle Diniso, Raynard Roets, Marius Verwey.
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