DYLAN JACK looks at which players took their opportunity to impress in the first round of pre-season fixtures over the past weekend.
Playing in his first game against a top-flight team in over two years, Inny Radebe looked like he had never been away from the field as he oozed class against the Vodacom Bulls.
The EP Elephants captain kicked excellently out of hand, putting his team into good attacking positions, which they were not always able to capitalize on.
It is very unfortunate that Radebe has been ruled out for the rest of the pre-season fixtures with a hand injury, as he looked set to prove that he belongs at one of the franchises.
With Damian Willemse and Tim Swiel being given the weekend off, Kade Wolhuter was handed the reins as he started at flyhalf for the Stormers against an experienced Cheetahs outfit, featuring the likes of Frans Steyn and Rosko Specman.
However, the 19-year-old looked very composed and was impressively accurately at goal, slotting two conversions and four penalties.
It was not a perfect performance, as Wolhuter struggled at times with his exit plays, giving the dangerous Cheetahs back three the opportunity to counter attack. But it was definitely a performance he can build on in the future.
In the build-up to the pre-season fixtures, Stormers coach John Dobson pointed out that building depth in the team’s front row was one of their main goals ahead of the Rainbow Cup.
Dobson would therefore have been pleased with how Neethling Fouche came through what was expected to be a tough test of his abilities against veteran loosehead Schalk Ferreira, who has previously proved a very tricky player to scrum against.
At 28-years-old, Fouche is comparatively a young tighthead prop, but he dominated his personal battle, forcing Ferreira back on a number of occassions.
As Ivan van Zyl’s move to Saracens was confirmed last week, Bulls coach Jake White was able to give Embrose Papier and Keagan Johannes a run against the EP Elephants.
Johannes made a bright cameo as he replaced Papier in the second half and scored two well-taken tries that came off running excellent support lines. The 21-year-old has previously represented the Bulls at U19 and U21 level, helping the team win the U21 Provincial Championship last year.
Even though the Bulls have secured the signing of Zak Burger, it will still be pleasing to White that he has a good depth at scrumhalf.
The Sharks were not exactly at their best in the first half against Griquas as they trailed 10-0 at a stage and struggled to gain any sort of ascendency at the scrum.
However, this was before Ntuthuka Mchunu was introduced. The former Maritzburg College pupil dominated from his very first scrum, winning a penalty and helped the Sharks turn the tide in their favour.
It was a very promising performance from a player who Sharks coach Sean Everitt revealed was playing his first senior game at prop after converting from loose-forward.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images