Part 1: SA rugby’s stars of the future

In the first of a two-part series from SA Rugby magazine, we pinpoint some of the rising stars who could have featured at this year’s U20 World Championship.

Despite the unfortunate cancellation of this year’s U20 event, there are a number of talented youngsters who could well become household names in the years to come.


One of a few Junior Springbok representatives from last year, Gumede has flown slightly under the radar since graduating from Durban High School in 2018. Nevertheless, Gumede’s size and technical ability should have the Sharks keen to give him a senior debut. He was mostly used off the bench as an impact player during the 2019 U20 Championship, but had a solid input when he was on the field. His speed made him especially dangerous against tired opponents in the second half. That should come as no surprise as he played international sevens during his school days.


Another survivor from the 2019 U20 squad, Hendrikse was the preferred starting scrumhalf for the Junior Springboks in his first year out of school. That in itself was interesting as he competed for a place in the starting lineup with franchise teammate Sanele Nohamba. However, it was clear to see why Hendrikse tended to start games as he possesses a Ruan Pienaar-esque technical ability that allowed him to control the pace of the game. As someone who can double as a flyhalf, he also has a solid kicking game, but it is clear that his long-term future is at scrumhalf.


The son of former Springbok lock Fritz van Heerden, Emile formed a powerful second-row with Sharks teammate JJ van der Mescht in 2019. While his discipline let him down at times last year, he still managed the Junior Bok lineout very well, while also featuring in the loose. Between him and Van der Mescht, the Sharks have a second-row pair that could carry them through the next decade.


The fact that Roos made his senior debut for the Sharks in his first year out of school should indicate how highly he is rated in Durban. The graduate of Paarl Boys’ High missed out on a place in the 2019 U20 squad but was still eligible to play in the Championship this year. At 1,92m and 109kg, Roos is a physical player who is equally comfortable at flank and lock. His best position probably remains at No 8, where he played for his 1st XV and for SA Schools.


A product of the famed Grey College, Wessels is simply a freak of nature, who boasts a raw mobility and power that just should not exist in a front-row player. It became a common to see him bursting a gap and outsprinting opponents in schools clashes, to the point that he was a tried as a lock at times. His decision to join the Clermont academy could be good for his development as a scrummager.

New mag: Why our future is in good hands 


Zwelendaba has been marked to make a big impact from a young age as he has been part of the SA Rugby structures since 2015. A hard-running centre, Zwelendaba was part of the Border U18 team that went unbeaten in the 2018 Craven Week. He was subsequently selected for SA Schools and made his Junior Springbok debut a year later. He signed for Western Province after school and could compete for a spot in the midfield.


The younger brother of the new set of Kriel brothers, Richard came through Grey College with David, who is one year his senior. The two played for the school’s 1st XV and provincial sevens alongside each other, but their paths diverged after school, with Richard moving to Pretoria to join the Bulls and David signing for Western Province. At 1,92m and 90kg, Richard already has the physicality to deal with senior provincial rugby. His speed, stepping and cannon of a boot were key to the Bulls taking the U21 Championships in 2019.


If there is one thing that Jacobs guarantees, it’s tries. There is already a huge excitement about his potential at the Bulls, who he chose to join after finishing his schooling at Paarl Gimnasium. A strong wing, who has never shirked the responsibility of playing against older players, Jacobs was due to play a key for the SA U20s in Italy.


Hailing from King Williams’ Town in the Eastern Cape, Xamlashe is the younger of another set of backline brothers who are aiming high. Educated at Selbourne College, Xamlashe captained the Border U18 team in 2018 and has seen his sporting career blossom since then. He was in inspired form during that particular tournament, slicing defences on the counter-attack. While his older brother, Sango, is making his way through the UP-Tuks and Bulls’ systems, Sibabalwe has chosen to sign for Western Province and go to Maties, where he was playing for their Young Guns.


So much has already been written about Wolhuter’s potential as he has been singled out as one of the best flyhalfs of his generation. Wolhuter possessed all the skill you would want from a pivot in his Grade 12 year at Paul Roos. He can score tries and has a vision for putting others into space, be it from a short or long pass, or even a kick over the top of the defence. His decision to join the Montpellier academy cost him SA Schools selection. Thankfully, he was invited to join the U20 training squad in 2020.

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Dylan Jack