Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack debate which rookie and returning veteran will have the biggest impact on their team in the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Jack says Stean Pienaar (Lions) and Josh Strauss (Vodacom Bulls):
Another Vodacom Super Rugby season is upon us and I don’t think I have been this excited for a new campaign to start in a while.
Perhaps that is down to the good feeling from the World Cup still lingering, but I think there is a feeling of freshness about this coming season. With the changes that have swept through all of South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises, it will be fascinating to see which comes out on top and which players have the biggest impact this year.
There are plenty of rookies who was impressive in last year’s Currie Cup campaign, who could find themselves running out in Super Rugby for the first time in 2020. Among them are Sharks scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba, Bulls fullback Richard Kriel and Stormers centre Rikus Pretorius.
However, it is 22-year-old Lions wing Stean Pienaar who could find himself with the most opportunities to perform. Pienaar was simply fantastic during his maiden Currie Cup campaign in 2019, scoring four tries, including a brace in a thrilling final round win over Griquas.
Schooled at Menlopark in Pretoria, Pienaar will be keen to make up for lost time in his career as he received an 18-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance during his high-school days.
With the Lions lacking a bit of depth on the wing, Pienaar will definitely find himself with opportunities this season. He has already proved that he can be more than just a stand-in and clearly has a good on-field relationship with fellow youngsters Tyrone Green and Wandisile Simelane.
As for my veteran, I think Josh Strauss will be an incredibly important player for the Bulls this year. With Duane Vermeulen leaving a gap in on- and off-field leadership, Strauss will be a core leader. It’s a role he can easily fill, though, as his days at the Lions showed.
Adams says Rikus Pretorius (Stormers) and Morne Steyn (Bulls):
I can’t honestly say that I’m excited about the looming Super Rugby season. The tournament is just so dreadfully long and filled with too many superfluous fixtures. For example, who among us can honestly say they are champing at the bit to watch the Sunwolves take on the Rebels on Saturday?
What I am excited about is the youngsters that have filtered through the South African system and forced their way into the four respective Super Rugby squads.
Sanele Nohamba, Rikus Pretorius, Wandisile Simelane, Muller Uys, Salmaan Moerat, Richard Kriel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Gianni Lombard, Manie Rass, Dylan Richardson, Emile van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Phendulani Buthelezi, Evan Roos, Celimpilo Gumede and Boeta Chamberlain. These are just a few of the new kids on the block this year, but the reason I single them out is because at some point during their junior careers, I’ve seen them do something so ridiculous on the field but my immediate reaction was: ‘This boy is going to be a superstar.’
And here we are. They are all set to play a role in their teams’ challenge for top honours in 2020, but the one I look forward to watch most is Pretorius.
The 21-year-old is a former Grey Gollege, Craven Week, SA Schools and Junior Springbok representative. Even during his early days, Pretorius has always been a strong presence in midfield and now there’s an opportunity for him to enforce that presence on a bigger, grander stage. He has paid his dues, working his way through the junior system at Western Province and now the time has come for him to make that rewarding step up to franchise level.
The Stormers have lost Damian de Allende, who was their midfield maestro for years, and the recruitment of Jamie Roberts has been a masterstroke. Playing alongside the experienced, 97-cap Test veteran will only aid Pretorius’ development.
Pretorius is renowned for his watertight defence and physically dominant manner in the contact area, but when on the front foot he will want to offload and create attacking and scoring opportunities.
There were glimpses of his talent on display during last year’s Currie Cup, but you get the sense that his maiden Super Rugby tournament is where his career will really take flight.
Deciding which returning veteran will have the biggest impact was a difficult. There’s Jannie du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Juandre Kruger, Morne Steyn, Josh Strauss and JP Pietersen. That’s some lineup. Ultimately went with Steyn in this category.
Liefling 2.0 is back at Loftus. The Bulls are sans Handre Pollard for the first time since 2016 and they looked to bring in someone to mentor their inexperienced No 10s. Manie Libbok has all the makings to be a great player, but his performances are still to erratic. Until Libbok learns how to orchestrate and manage a game from start to finish and improve his goal-kicking, Steyn will be the Bulls’ go-to man. And his accurate boot may just be what they need to pull off a few surprise results this year.
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