With the Currie Cup season in full swing, and Super Rugby Unlocked completed, there have been a few local players, other than the usuals, who have consistently stood out in the South African season, writes JAMES DALTON.
Many of the usual players have fired in South Africa’s local tournament, with the likes of Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff being scary in their scrum dominance, Duane Vermeulen reinforcing his huge value in leading a Vodacom Bulls side that has dominated the season and the other Springboks generally doing a good job in a strange year of rugby.
However, there have been a few players outside this select group who have really been impressive with their form and consistency.
Morne Steyn (Bulls)
Morne Steyn has been phenomenal in commanding the efforts of the Super Rugby Unlocked champion Bulls. Steyn’s maturity and game development has shown since his return from Europe – distributing the ball well, directing traffic and engaging his outside backs, but the usual Steyn traits which guided many a Springbok and Bulls sides to victory in the past have not lessened as other areas of his game have evolved. His accuracy from the tee is unbelievable and his tactical kicking has been unmatched in South Africa this year. The way in which he has controlled games through this kicking has been a driving force in the Bulls’ success, but his leadership value must not be overlooked in adding to this success. Steyn has definitely made a case to be involved in the larger Springbok set-up from a mentorship perspective similarly to Frans Steyn, and his composure and stability could go a long way for the Springboks in the year of the British & Irish Lions challenge.
Rosko Specman (Cheetahs)
A shining star for the Cheetahs in their tough season, Specman has adapted beautifully to the 15-man game. He still needs to be coached on his defensive positioning, so he is not caught ball watching when defending on the outside. His natural out-and-out pace and finishing ability cannot be coached and he is almost Kolbe-like in the speed of his feet and the way he beats defenders. Specman has been of tremendous value for the Cheetahs and shown the impact of a wing who finishes well.
JD Schickerling (Stormers)
The Springboks and Stormers for the past few years have been blessed in the locks department, and this year is no different with Salmaan Moerat and JD Schickerling packing down with pure size and skill in Cape Town. Schickerling, though, is a unique talent, and his agility could be a huge asset at No 5. While the Boks have many quality locks, the attrition rate is high and we’ve seen many of the first-choice Springbok locks hit with injury. You can never have too much quality in the ranks and Schickerling, who doesn’t seem to lose a lineout, brings a great work rate and dynamic style of lock play to the game.