This article is pretty hard to write as we are at the beginning cycle again for South African Rugby. Out of the 3 SANZAR partners we have the most young players coming through into top level competition.
All 5 teams are going to field some exciting young talent this year that are going to electrify this competition. Some of them played some rugby last year already and some of them even went to the World Cup, but even more are going to be playing top-level competition for the first time this year.
Let us look specifically at players that will be “ringers” for anyone playing a fantasy league game.
1) Eben Etzebeth
Rynhardt Elstadt is another Stormers lock that will be doing big things this year, but since he played a lot of last years competition his worth is already known.
Etzebeth is fresh out of the U20 squad and just as opposing locks will breath a sigh of relief when seeing Andries Bekker leave the field, meaning that they possibly could compete in the line out again, they’ll see Etsebeth take his place, who gives up 7cm on Bekker, but weighs the same.
Elstadt, Bekker, Etzebeth looks like the Bok lineup for 4 years to come. Include other U21 star Quinn Roux (pictured here with Etzebeth) and the stormers are looking okay in the lock department.
2) Johan Goosen
Also fresh out of the ranks of the U20′s, Johan is causing all kinds of excitement in SA. Last year we had Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjes come along to fill the typical South African gaping void at flyhalf. It’s the perennial problem in South African rugby: we have many players who given a scrap of room or one-on-one can beat their man for pace or size, but we have few who can create that scrap or one-on-one situation.
How many times have you see the inside player deliver a pass that if he held it a fraction of a second longer would have drawn the outside man? Or earlier to spread the ball quickly to the outside player?
Have a look at the Springboks with Jean de Villiers and then look again with Wynand Olivier. One player is the instinctual wizard of the midfield able to create something from nothing, gifted in reading the game and the other can crash a mean ball.
Suddenly we are blessed with midfield players who can kick, break tackles, run lines, pass and do it all from the 10 and 12 position.
Within the next year we have Tim Swiel joining these burgeoning ranks of creative mid-field players as well.
Goosen has already dismantled the Stormers in pre-season and other teams will have to deal with him later this year once he is accustomed to this level of rugby.
3) Siya Kolisi
With Burger, Vermeulen and Koster, Kolisi completes 2012′s Stormer’s loosie unit. Strong, fast and skillful he reminds me of Josh Kronfeld or Richie McCaw. Expect to see him all over the park and while not an out-an-out fetcher flank like McCaw was in his early career, he is no slouch when it comes to going after the ball on the deck. Could plug the large hole left by Francois Louw.
4) Steven Kitshoff
After last years disappointment in the prop department (Coenie Oosthuizen becoming a penalty magnet at scrum-time), I am very reticent to put forward a young prop again, but Kitshoff proves that there are some uses for gingers. This kid is the new breed of prop and is our only hope to compete with those blonde beasts, the Franks bros. Kitshoff has the makings of the modern prop – hitting rucks hard repeatedly, tackling in open play, running and great hands.
Can’t wait for him to come up against the opposition this year.
5) S’bura Sithole
Like his team-mate Lwazi Mvovo, S’bura is built thick and has a low centre-of-gravity for a tall fella (over six feet tall). He is a winger in the vein of Rene Ranger, who is fast and powerful. With Pietersen seemingly occupying the outside centre role for the Sharks this year (what the hell?) he could be fast-tracked into the starting XV. I am very excited to see if this kid has the core skills at this level – stepping off of either foot, protecting the ball from the defense, handing-off, first-time tacking, cover sweeps – the stuff that Aussie and Kiwi backs seem to learn at birth and Saffas fail to do even at test level.
6) Johan Sadie
Sadie scrapes by as he only played in 2 Super 15 matches last year, but in that time him and Juan de Jongh showed what they could be together. Unfortunately that pairing will have to wait till Bok season to see each other since Sadie left the Stormers to take up a position in the new-look Bulls (sob!). Can Ludeke learn to harness Sadie’s talent and we can see some enterprising mid-field rugby from the Bulls back line? I certainly hope so as not only does this kid fit the physical bill, his soft hands and holding onto the pass hints at a brain that can see the play unfolding and get away the player on the outside.