We’ve done an article on the kids of the Super 15 that are in their first full season of Super Rugby. Let’s dwell on a different beast now, with some players that have been waiting for their opportunity to shine over the last season or two.
2012 is their year in the sun.
Hougies has done his time behind Fourie du Preez at Super and Bok level. Originally looked over by a careless WPRU, he is set for stardom. Equally adept behind the scrum and out on the wing, he is both a stand-out on attack and defense. I can’t help but feel that if he rather than FdP had started the quarter final, we would probably be World Champions again. Pretty bold statement, but he would not have dropped those critical passes to touch down for the try and he would have drawn McCabe and Faingaa closer, allowing more room on the outside for de Villiers and Fourie.
His infectious enthusiasm for the game shows on his face every time he gets the ball. I can’t help but think that Meyer will leave Fourie playing in Japan and forge a Hougaard / Lambie axis at 9/10 for the Boks. He just always seems to pop up in support shouting for the pass to power through a space in the defense.
Juan de Jongh:
With the other Fourie also in Japan for the forceable future, space has opened up for de Jongh to play in his favored outside centre position for the Stormers and probably for the Boks.
Criticised as too small, detractors continue to be stunned by his text-book tackle technique. He also has pace to burn and a mean step. A true team player, he has waited patiently for his chance and now it is here (only for him to be injured for the first game).
Plumtree has promised Lambie the full season at flyhalf, so we will see what the boy wonder does to respond to the prolonged game-time. His first few outings have been less than impressive, but he continues to improve his form and I think has class all the way to the top level.
He has bulked up a bit in the off season – whether this is from natural effects of maturing or the infamous “program” – he is up at least 5kg in weight.
Is he a flyhalf or is he a fullback? Is he a super-sub? Truth is he could be all 3 for the Boks. Last year the talk was Lambie vs Jantjes vs Steyn. This year both the youngsters have started slowly and improved steadily, while Steyn imploded horrendously on Saturday night after gifting the opening try in the opening minutes to an intercept.
Can Meyer look past his light-blue tinted glasses and realize that he needs to back these kids now for them to mature into greats? I’m not putting my money on it, but if they keep their kicking percentages in the mid-80 percents it’s going to be hard to keep coming up with excuses as to why he sticks with Steyn.
Andries is a man-mountain, stretching a good 10cm above the next highest lock’s head in international competition. His stature means that the lever length of his arms and legs is increased to the point where he is constantly battling injuries, so much so that he missed the World Cup and was probably the second most missed player after Juan Smith not making it.
To think of him as just tall timber is to do his athleticism and ball skills a disservice as he is not out of place in the back-line where it is almost impossible for a defending player to stop him offloading the ball.
I see him as one of the future leaders of The Stormers and the Boks. Maybe not the outright Captain, but definitely always part of the leading group, like Fourie du Preez. This year should see him getting managed properly rather than being played to death in the Super 15. Elstadt, Etzebeth and Roux are ably there to assist, which means come Bok time he should be locking in the starting XV for a long while to come.
Elton had a torrid 2011, with his meteoric rise towards the end of the 2010 seeing him hailed as the golden child of a non-racial Springbok Rugby. He was rushed into the starting line-up for the Boks, where he failed to shine. He then came back to the Lions and was beaten time and again in the inside channel by big, hard-running Kiwi backs. His confidence failed him and he was shepherd-crooked off of the field and maligned as yet another Earl Rose.
But it was the Kiwis of Mitchell and Spencer who were his coaches and they do things differently. They started from scratch and built him up again and he is the better player for it. He has arguably been the stand-out flyhalf of the South African conference so far. If he keeps on playing at this level as well as he is he will be rewarded with a Bok squad position.