Cape Town – Springbok
coach Rassie Erasmus is very likely, in his own mind, to have largely closed
the books on his broad base of personnel for the assault on the 2019 season –
including the big culmination, the World Cup in Japan.
four Tests scheduled before RWC 2019 gets underway in late September, time is
already running desperately short for him to infuse any hitherto uncapped
bolters into his mix.
no national coach is ever going to blithely ignore the major
southern-hemisphere franchise tournament –Super Rugby – that traditionally
precedes the start of international combat in a calendar year.
It may have
lost some of its gravitas over the years yet almost unfailingly, across its
widening spectrum, it nevertheless throws up almost annually some new
sensations with the potential to burst into the Test picture for any of the
With only a
curtailed Rugby Championship in 2019, the chances of total novices bursting to
the fore are naturally less favourable than in a non-World Cup year.
remember, already has a fairly swollen list of fringe customers – either
minimally capped, or who have featured in his travelling squads without yet
sampling the highest stage – to consider.
African shores, for example, eyebrows were raised in Durban and beyond when men
like the Du Preez loose-forward twins, Jean-Luc and Daniel, and hooker Akker
van der Merwe from the 2018 Currie Cup-winning Sharks didn’t make the
end-of-year tour cut.
mastermind may also be inclined over the next few months to revisit a few
already internationally-proven players from the swelling ranks of
overseas-based Boks: Jan Serfontein, Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach and others
could yet be candidates for recall.
So any youngster
wishing to suddenly announce himself from left field in 2019 is going to have
to do so with some gusto, and enormous regularity during Super Rugby.
It’s a hazardous
exercise, but here is my nationwide suggestion of four uncapped greenhorns,
powered by appealing X-factor (whatever that really is!), who might just be very
long shots for a meteoric elevation to the Springbok squad picture:
Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
Yes, he is
pencil slim. But still aged only 20 (21 in time for the start of what will be
his maiden Super Rugby exposure), this extraordinary athlete will fill out,
especially with some dedicated gym time that has doubtless already been a key
feature of his off-season.
onto the Currie Cup scene for the Sharks this year, making an immediate impact
with his blistering pace and keen eye for space to exploit it in – remember
when he hunted down the now World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, Aphiwe
Dyantyi, from well behind initially in the semi against the Lions?
Clearly he makes
“speed merchant” seem an under-statement, and if he lights up Super Rugby 2019
(probably as a supersub factor, initially) with similar stealth to what he did
in the domestic competition, his utility value as either a wing or fullback
could just see him fast-tracked sensationally to Bok plans.
ambitious scenario, for sure; it is probably well too early to bet your house
on the former Dale College pupil marching all the way to the national picture
at short notice.
But the Boks
do lack a little bit of tall timber among their outside backs for high-ball
management purposes and, at almost 1.90m, Fassi has an advantage in that
respect over most of the current back-three staff for SA.
Cobus Wiese (Stormers)
Erasmus has already
shown at least some confidence in the loose forward’s long-term potential by
making Wiese part of some Bok training-camp exercises.
21-year-old, already boasting two seasons of on-and-off Super Rugby experience,
has had a frustrating 2018 due to injury layoffs, struggling to get any
continuity – and that in a Newlands set-up not exactly lacking in loosie
But if that
particular jinx can be firmly banished in 2019, he has the ability to become an
integral part of the furniture for the Stormers even as competition stays tight
(and quite strongly experience-laden) for starting places.
something of the Schalk Burger-type abrasive quality to his play, even if the
Upington-born flank-cum-lock (though he may need to add a few kilos to his
105kg frame to be a real presence in the second row) obviously has a long road
to travel to become as iconic in Western Cape rugby circles as Burger was.
into collisions with mongrel-like zeal, though, and boasts a strong work-rate
when at optimum fitness.
Hacjivah Dayimani (Lions)
I brought up
his name, admittedly, for similar future-vision purposes at the end of the 2017
And truth be
told, the Lions’ tearaway then didn’t announce himself in Super Rugby 2018 to
quite the degree some had expected or hoped.
21, remains brimful of potential as a genuine, game-breaking sort of loosie raider,
considering his pace, linking instincts and sublime stepping when he is
properly “switched on”.
started to regain his best zest at times during the latest Currie Cup, and with
the Lions’ squad thinning a bit through overseas defections, maybe THIS will
instead be his big “arrival” season at Super Rugby level.
If he gets
it right, I see him as a potential threat to Bok squad incumbent Sikhumbuzo
Notshe – sadly rather flat-lining, despite his considerable attributes? – as a
versatile, pace-orientated loose forward offering impact possibilities against
tiring defences from either the side of the scrum or eighth-man.
Hendre Stassen (Bulls)
too much for the now long-suffering Loftus faithful to get optimistic about in
terms of “Bulls revival” during 2018.
But even as they
await – already irritatingly overdue – the appointment of a new head coach to
replace John Mitchell, the Pretoria-based franchise are slowly amassing the
necessary personnel for a better challenge, at very least, in Super Rugby 2019
after ending 12th overall this year.
includes a decent shaft of light from the Currie Cup: no-nonsense, energetic
and sturdily-built (115kg, two metres) lock Stassen.
He is not
quite 21 yet, so just consider how much more he might bulk up into a genuine
like a robust front lock in the Bakkies Botha or Flip van der Merwe mould, and
his development should only benefit from a current, short-term stint ahead of
the local season with Stade Francais, where astute former Bok and Bulls
mastermind Heyneke Meyer will be a positive influence in helping him increase
a sprinkling of Super Rugby appearances this year, but should feature much more
prominently this time around – and that despite the presence in Pretoria of
much more seasoned, international second-rowers RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and
Lood de Jager, as generous rotation should pay dividends during the long slog.
just have a “Boksburg Bomber” of a new kind in the making for punch in the
Bulls’ pack …
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