It’s madness to do this. People shouldn’t make bold predictions in December. This article will definitely come back to bite me on my backside next year. But, without any further ado, here are five predictions for the South African rugby landscape in 2018.
1 Lukhanyo Am to start at No 13 v England in June
It’s an absolute crime that after his heroics this season, Lucky Am only played five minutes against Wales in the last Test of the year.
Yes, injury ruled him out against France, and by the time the Rugby Championship came round, Allister Coetzee was probably too scared to unleash Am in the hostile environment of a tour to Australasia.
But, jis, the oke’s got it, and Jesse Kriel is a shambles at 13. We’ve been looking for a Jacque Fourie replacement since 2011. We’ve got him here.
2 Handre Pollard to show why he’s the golden boy
Pollard will finally catch a break from the injuries that have plagued him over the past two seasons. Coetzee didn’t make much sense trying to explain why he’d fast-tracked Pollard to every Springbok camp, even though the flyhalf was about as under-cooked as sushi.
Pollard won a Junior World Cup when he was 18 and scored two tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park. There’s a reason Heyneke Meyer liked this kid so much – he’s got it all, and I’m saying he pitches up in 2018.
3 The Lions to bottle it
I like Swys de Bruin. A lot. But I don’t think Rassie Erasmus will pick as many Lions players as Coetzee eventually did, and this might lead to an exodus of players not wanting to stick around when there are euros and pounds to be earned up north.
Faf de Klerk jumped ship. Ruan Ackermann is sparring with his dad at Gloucester, and Rohan Janse van Rensburg is already on a sojourn with Sale.
I can’t see Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies and Courtnall Skosan waiting around if the Springbok opportunities start to dwindle.
4 The Kings to come good
Deon Davids worked relative miracles with the Kings during this year’s Super Rugby. Six wins, including an away one against the Waratahs in Sydney, and this with a team that barely knew each other’s names in the season-opener.
They’ve made a winless start to the PRO14, but next year Davids will finally have some continuity, and job security, and I think the results will follow.
5 Woes for the Stormers
With news breaking this week that some officials at WP didn’t receive bonuses, debts at Remgro, and the ugliest sponsorless jersey/warm-up T-shirt known to man, things aren’t exactly lekker in the Cape at the moment.
Because money makes the world go round, Huw Jones is gone to Scotland, so too Currie Cup hero Robert du Preez (Sharks), and I sense that if something doesn’t come good soon, more and more stars will be scanning the horizon for greener pastures next season.
Part of the reason WP need to keep hold of their talent is for the development of the younger players. EW Viljoen, Damian Willemse and JD Schikerling are some of the best young talents in world rugby.
If these kids can play with hardebaarde like Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Steven Kitshoff for the next few years, that can only be good for SA Rugby.
6 The Boks will at least beat Australia once (Yes, it’s Christmas time and I’m in cheerful mood, so have an extra prediction to spite me with next year!)
I’m too scared to call the English Test series, but I’m confident that the Boks will be more organised in 2018, and that’ll be enough to klap the Aussies at least once.
FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media.
If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to firstname.lastname@example.org