Head to head: Players who can make an impact

Prior to the start of the local competition, DYLAN JACK and CRAIG LEWIS picked a back and forward they expected to make a big impact.

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DYLAN JACK says Rikus Pretorius and Nizaam Carr

With Jamie Roberts back in Wales, Rikus Pretorius could get his chance to make the inside centre position his own at the Stormers. Pretorius has had to wait for his opportunity, with all of his Super Rugby appearances this year coming from the bench as Stormers coach John Dobson understandably opted for the vastly more experienced Roberts, a veteran of close to 100 Tests for Wales.

Pretorius would have learned much playing under Roberts and can now put that to the test in the domestic competitions. The 21-year-old has long been heralded as the natural successor to Damian de Allende, given the similar way in which he carries the ball to the defensive line and his comfort with taking the ball flat. However, it would be doing his talent a disservice to simply brand him as a crash-ball option.

Pretorius has so much more to his game and often looks to use his size to give his teammates opportunities by freeing up the ball in the tackle. His offloading and ability to release his teammates out wide are very underrated. Even more exciting for Stormers fans is that he will form a very talented midfield combination with the fit-again Dan du Plessis, who has been heralded as a future Springbok by Dobson. Du Plessis has fallen off the radar somewhat due to successive long-term knee injuries, but at 25 years old still very much has his best rugby ahead of him and will be keen to make up for lost time.

Meanwhile, in Pretoria, Nizaam Carr is set to announce his return to South African rugby with the Bulls. Carr has been playing for Wasps in the English Premiership for the past two years, where he became a fan favourite, playing over 40 games for the Coventry-based team. The 29-year-old offers the perfect foil to the likes of two strong ball carriers in Duane Vermeulen and Arno Botha, with his skill with the ball in hand complemented by an impressive work rate at the breakdown.

CRAIG LEWIS says Sanele Nohamba and Siya Kolisi

One of the most joyful moments during the early rounds of Super Rugby was debutant Sanele Nohamba’s sensational match-winning try against the Bulls. It was a try that well and truly announced the 21-year-old’s arrival on the senior South African rugby landscape, with the former Junior Springbok displaying his pace and natural feel for the game.

Blessed with talent in abundance, Nohamba looked set for a breakthrough Super Rugby season before competition was unceremoniously halted. Yet there is every reason to believe the youngster will be one to watch as live rugby finally resumes in South Africa.

The Sharks have made no secret of the fact they are willing to back their youthful scrumhalves, and will need to after veteran Louis Schreuder parted ways with the franchise during lockdown.

It should open the door for Nohamba to make a play for the No 9 jersey, and the prospect of regular game time for this raw prospect is exciting.

When it comes to picking a forward, there is good reason to look forward to Siya Kolisi’s return to action. After the highs of the World Cup, he suffered a serious knee injury early in the Stormers’ Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes. It’s meant the Bok and Stormers skipper has played little rugby since the World Cup final, and it will be crucial for him to rediscover his form and fitness.

One would expect it make take some time for Kolisi to get back up to speed, but as he demonstrated when recovering from a troublesome injury last year, he remains one of the most dynamic loose forwards in world rugby when he is firing on all cylinders.

*This article first appeared in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!

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