South African rugby needs to reclaim some respect and salvage its reputation as a heavyweight rugby nation. With a golden era of veteran champions having retired or moved abroad, it may be time for the Springboks to turn to our young guns, like Jake White’s team did in 2004.
Several such players have already made their presence felt on Super Rugby debut this season and it is vital, for these players’ development and South Africa’s future prospects, that the Baby Boks return home from Georgia in June with the Junior World Championship trophy for the first time in five years.
Sharks tactician Curwin Bosch is a star in the making. Asked to step into the shoes of injured Sharks captain Pat Lambie, Bosch has met the challenge like a veteran. Super Rugby’s top points-scorer, the youngster is already in a position to stake a claim for one of the vacant Springbok flyhalf and fullback positions.
Bosch’s kicking ability is unmatched in SA and his attacking prowess must be lauded. His defensive aptitude remains a work in progress, and he’ll be determined to show that he’s made strides there when he goes up against age-grade rivals at the Junior World Cup.
Stormers rookie Cobus Wiese has been another standout under-20 player this season. Set to compete in the JWC for a second time, Wiese will play a key role in providing the grunt and go-forward for a pack that will look to him for leadership.
His high work-rate, physicality and versatility make him an asset though his highest value to the Boks could be as the long-term successor to ball-carriers Juan Smith and Willem Alberts in the No 7 jesrey.
The Baby Boks will also be looking to Lions finisher Michael Tambwe to shine brightly at the Junior World Championship. With JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana in the twilight of their careers, Tambwe will have an opportunity to apply for a job that has been occupied for the better part of a decade.
The talented youngster boasts scorching pace, is a solid defender and will no doubt feature as a strike-runner in Chean Roux’s plans.
As was the case in 2004, the Test season ahead looks bleak for SA fans. The Boks are coming off their worst season, the identity of the captain remains unknown and the task of rebuilding seems to be much tougher than was expected.
White selected a young, hungry squad in 2004 and the core of that team went on to clinch the 2007 Rugby World Cup and contest the 2011 and 2015 editions. Pietersen, Habana, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers were players who made the Springboks great again.
It’s time the current Boks drew on some new energy and clinching the Junior World Championship trophy will do much to revive the winning culture that’s needed to drive South Africa back to the top of the world rankings.
Benedict is a sports psychology student, a rugby coach and a freelance rugby writer. Follow him on Twitter: @bchanakira2
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