Five prodigiously talented players have been nominated in the SA Young Player of the Year category. Here we take a closer look at each contender.
The 22-year-old Bosch had a rather quiet year by his standards. The introduction of Aphelele Fassi at fullback in the Sharks’ Vodacom Super Rugby team provided stern competition for him, while he also had to compete with Rob du Preez for the flyhalf position. He featured a bit more prominently in the Currie Cup and was rewarded with selection in the Barbarians squad, scoring a try in their 43-33 loss to Wales in November.
After an emphatic breakthrough season with the Stormers and the Springboks it’s hard to see any of the other nominees really challenging Jantjies for this award. His debut against Australia in the Rugby Championship will long be remembered and he quickly became Rassie Erasmus’ second-choice scrumhalf. Part of the triumphant Springboks squad, the 23-year-old was nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award but missed out to French flyhalf Romain Ntamack. He was, however, a big winner at the annual Brightrock Players Choice Awards, as well as the Western Province 2019 awards evening.
Stepped up brilliantly in the World Cup semi-final when he replaced the injured Cheslin Kolbe against Wales. Nkosi took every opportunity he got in the green and gold this year and has become quite an important player for both the Sharks and Springboks. He seems to be embracing the opportunity to play rugby for the Sharks and Boks and has formed a formidable wing partnership with Makazole Mapimpi in Durban.
JJ van der Mescht
The young lock was one of the standout players in the Junior Springboks team which claimed bronze at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina. Van der Mescht famously scored that intercept try in the Junior Boks’ win over New Zealand during the pool stages. He also made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks this year, replacing Hyron Andrews during their 42-5 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park. Van der Mescht has also been nominated for Junior Springbok Player of the Year.
The youngster missed a big part of the Super Rugby season due to injury, which subsequently had him miss out on World Cup selection at first. But following Jesse Kriel’s injury early on in the competition, Willemse took his chance when he met up with the Boks in Japan after receiving the call-up, scoring his first try in the green and gold in the pool match against Canada.