Johannesburg - After his impressive test debut against the All Blacks in Cape Town, Wilco Louw’s name was on the lips of opponents and supporters alike.
The tight head prop from the Western Province had a dream year and deserves recognition for it. Those who have been watching him on the field knew all along that he would play for the Boks at some point in his career.
But they probably didn’t know it would be so soon.
The name Makazole Mapimpi, on the other hand, would only have rung a bell with a few rugby supporters before the 2017 season.
The 27-year-old from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape exploded onto the rugby scene this year, almost from nowhere.
He played an exceptional Super Rugby season with the Southern Kings, and his footwork, pace and ability to finish awarded him a place in the South African A-team after the series.
Mapimpi, who made his provincial debut for Border in 2014, has recently been excelling for the Cheetahs.
With nine tries, he is currently the leading try-scorer in the Pro14 series.
With the Boks still searching for their first choice flanks, Mapimpi is a lightning bolt who should definitely be considered.
Sharks flank Sbu Nkosi is another unknown player who made an impressive appearance this year. Great things are expected of him in the near future.
With more than 300 South African players plying their trade overseas, interest levels in French and English club rugby has increased dramatically in South Africa. Their seasons differ to ours, but one can follow matches on the internet or on television without much difficulty.
As always, Frans Steyn was one of Montpellier’s stars this year. Many of his team-mates, such as Jacques du Plessis, Henry Immelman and Bismarck du Plessis (although he has been injured for some time), also impress every week.
Pat Lambie (Racing 92), Jan Serfontein (Montpellier), Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester), Nizaam Carr (Wasps) and Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) also made big impressions in their first seasons overseas.
Flip van der Merwe (Clermont) brings his A-game every week. Vincent Koch is playing hot rugby for Saracens and Duane Vermeulen is busy regaining his top form at Toulon. Francois Hougaard is doing much better in his Worcester Warriors jersey than he did in his Bok jersey.
As a player for Lyon, Etienne Oosthuizen still does not get the recognition he deserves.
Schalk Brits is old, but by no means cold, and he impresses when he wears his Saracens jersey.
The one player who competes for his team’s player of the match prize, and often wins it, is Paul Jordaan.
The versatile back line player (flank and centre) is one of the most underrated players in the French Top 14 league. He has unbelievable pace, and the fact that he is so fleet of foot is one of his greatest qualities.
The way that he rounds off makes him one of the most valuable players for his club side, so it’s no wonder they are trying to extend his contract.