The 2020 season will provide an opportunity for the likes of Curwin Bosch, Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok to strengthen SA rugby’s flyhalf stocks, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After the Boks’ heroics in 2019, there is sure to be plenty of expectations that follow the performances of South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby sides this season. However, as is the case after most World Cup cycles, the new year welcomes a rebuilding phase for most of our local franchises following the departure of several seasoned stars to overseas clubs.
For the purposes of this column topic, World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard – for one – has headed off to join French club Montpellier. He is the man who holds first rights to the Bok No 10 jersey, and the 25-year-old will still be young enough to feature at one or even two more World Cups.
That’s an enticing prospect for the Boks, while second-in-command Elton Jantjies has yet to turn 30. Having said that, this Super Rugby season provides the prime opportunity for the next generation of young flyhalves in the country to truly assert themselves on the Super Rugby stage.
Pollard’s departure has left the No 10 jersey vacant at the Vodacom Bulls, and it’s 22-year-old Manie Libbok who now has the opportunity to make a play for that pivotal position.
Libbok is one of those highly regarded Junior Springbok stars who has yet to really make the step up to senior rugby with the desired consistency. What cannot be denied, though, is the fact he is blessed with an abundance of talent.
His former SA U20 teammate, Damian Willemse, is another such a player with plenty to look forward to in 2020. The latter stage of last year was a game-changing one for the 21-year-old, who was expected to have a decent loan spell with Saracens, before receiving a belated call-up to the Boks’ World Cup-winning squad.
An unfortunate injury to Jesse Kriel proved to be his good fortune, and the smile Willemse wore when he scored against Canada said all one needed to know about how much it meant for him to be back in Bok colours.
Willemse has long been spoken of as a player with all the raw talent to enjoy a long and illustrious Test career, but his first stints on the international stage have not been without their odd rude awakening.
Nevertheless, with six Test caps to his name, and the chance to enjoy an extended run as the Stormers’ first-choice flyhalf, he has a big season ahead of him.
And if we’re catching on to the theme here, the same can be said for yet another Junior Springbok wunderkind, Curwin Bosch.
The 22-year-old has also endured a rollercoaster introduction to senior rugby, mixing the magical with the mediocre, and in particular he has contended with more than a fair share of criticism over a leaky defence.
Yet, what stands in Bosch’s favour at the start of a new season is the promise from coach Sean Everitt that he will be solely played in his preferred position at flyhalf.
When Bosch is playing with confidence – as he demonstrated when in action with the Barbarians towards the end of last year – he is often a class apart.
This is an exciting time for SA rugby, but also the time for some of our talented young flyhalves to truly reach their immense potential.