SA’s depth provides glimmer of hope

Zelím Nel

The Bulls and Sharks are long shots to survive the quarter-finals after yet another disappointing Super Rugby season which saw the four South African teams combine for 30 wins in 64 matches.

The dire run of results was made more ignominious by the Jaguares clinching the conference title, and the imminent player Springbok exodus (post-World Cup) and roll out of a plan to shrink the SA player pool, has served up a buffet for pessimists.

However, in spite of the arid landscape and bleak horizon, players continue to blossom and in some cases thrive, serving a reminder that South Africa produces home-grown talent like no other rugby nation.

At the Bulls, Lizo Gqoboka and Cornal Hendricks both made a memorable return to Super Rugby duty. The loosehead prop backed up big shoves with athleticism and workrate in general play, while the former Blitzboks finisher stood out as one of the few local wingers with the chutzpah to take the outside break.

Nestled in a pack of big ball-carriers, and overshadowed by the big-time plays made by Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden ended the season as the best specialist deckhand in the country. And only two players made more dominant hits than flex forward Hanro Liebenberg.

Injuries and suspensions opened the door for Mzamo Majola and Kerron van Vuuren to start in Durban and the former KZN high school front-row rivals teamed up to steady the Sharks set piece with a composure that belied their relative inexperience.

Thumper Dan du Preez continued to grow into his role in the vanguard of the Sharks pack, finishing up among Super Rugby’s best in key stats categories, such as offloads and tackle breaks, and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder led the comp in the passing category.

Nobody at the Sharks made bigger strides in 2019 than Curwin Bosch who finally found his pace in the competition, combining SA’s most refined kicking game with a playmaking ability that sparked the attack. And with Bosch at 10, 21-year-old Aphelele Fassi banked the learnings that came from an extended run at the back.

Lions jumper Marvin Orie ranked fourth overall for lineout takes this season, while all-action winger Tyrone Green caught the eye with fearless runs that would go well with Bonnie Tyler’s 1984 hit single, Holding Out For A Hero.

Surplus to the Stormers requirements, Carlu Sadie was loaned to the Lions where he opened the season as the Lions starting tighthead prop and did a fine job of it. Shaun Reynolds had to wait a little longer to cut his teeth in the run-on side and, though he didn’t shoot the lights out, the former Griffons age-group star closed the gap on franchise flyhalf Elton Jantjies.

And Herschel Jantjies and Jaco Coetzee hopped from Currie Cup to the next level with ease, making veteran contributions to the Stormers’ cause. Only three players made a higher volume of accurate passes than the Stormers halfback and Coetzee’s reckless physicality drew loose comparisons to Schalk Burger’s ball-carrying legacy.

Dan du Preez is set to join his brothers at Sale in the future and it remains to be seen how many of the other players mentioned will choose to stick around in 2020 and beyond. But at a time when the majority of the Bok squad is expected to head abroad after the Rugby World Cup, the next men up have this season shown that South Africa may have the talent to fill the void.

- Zelim Nel

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  • boyo

    All good players mentioned and for the most part they all youngsters. The issue is keeping enough experience around to guide them in their careers. You cant throw a side of youngsters together and expect them to perform and you want to get a culture of success. We should fight hard to retain some players in the so called spine.

    As it stands we will need a new 8 and 15 post WC which is already 2 “spine players” so we must push to keep the rest in SA

  • Barry

    The concern is surely that so few of our current Springbok squad have shown much form this year. It is only Pollard, RG Snyman and Jantjies that are reflecting in the stats.

    I suspect we will end up with a squad that is based on the EOYT rather than current form- selection on reputation and media hype rather than hard yards on the field! It is generally what we do – there is a place and need for experience, but it is our National side and no one should doddle into it without having stretched!

    • Redge

      Jantjies,Elton Jantjies? You must be joking right????????

  • John Comyn

    Apologies for taking a pessimistic view but I don’t see much hope on the horizon. The U20 sides results at WC’s tell another story. We always put out a good side but we are far from world beaters. Until the game is professionally run nothing is likely to change. The game is politicized at every level. SARU is practically bankrupt as are all the unions. In a nutshell the money required to make us the best is not available. The reality is we are now a typical 3rd world country where dog eat dog is the name of the game. It’s glaringly obvious watching the Proteas fumble their way along in the cricket WC.

  • Tobokani

    I don’t know if you watch much of the games but some of the stats you’re on about about are pretty useless in providing an indication on a player’s season.
    Passes made?? Hez a scrumhalf Ofcourse hez gonna pass the ball a lot(and as the skipper he stays on longer than most other 9s in the competition). But Louis Shrouder has been pedestrian in the speed of ball he has delivered and posed no threats around the fringes. the sharks game always picks up when Cameron Wright comes on.
    4th most lineouts taken?? Marvin Orie has not been great this year especially when considering how good Mostert was. He constantly Knocks on in contact, botches kick offs and lost some vital lineouts for the lions..
    I mean this with the most respect but please watch more rugby instead of just perusing through the stats which can be very misleading.
    I’m a huge fan of Marco van Staden but he has a knack of dropping simple passes because he snatches at the ball. Unforced errors are usually punished ruthlessly by top sides

    • Barry

      I had a chuckle reading your post, scrum halves do indeed pass quite a bit! Lol

      Schreuder has slowed down his recycling to such an extent that it seems that it is unfair to pass the ball until the opposition have had a fair chance to re-set their defense! His decision making as Captain has also been questionable. The penalty kicks against the Stormers should have been snapped up – game over!

      I do think however that stats are very much a part of the modern pro game, but it is in the understanding and interpretation that there is value!

  • Herman

    Zelim your optimism is to be admired but the problem is not so much the apparent depth of our talent but how this talent is harnessed. Currently all eyes are on the WC and what goes on between now and then is going to be geared for that. The problem is last year the Boks were at best pretty average. If we didn’t pox the Wellington test would anyone be talking about the bulk of last years Boks being earmarked to go to the WC, as Rassie said 80% ?

    If one looks at last years squad there is hardly place for any up and coming young players who have shown commendable progress this season compared to the often lame inconsistent performances from some of the Bok incumbents. No doubt Rassie will go for that overrated ‘experience’ factor and the under performing ‘Boks’ will fly out to Japan en masse equipped with that oh so predictable Bok game plan. I won’t even dwell on that other ‘elephant in the room’ called transformation that by itself is a distortion of what should be happening in this day and age.

    So imo we may as well add the Boks to the long list of failed crippled institutions such as Eskom, SABC etc and of course add our other sporting codes such as the wilting Proteas and the laugh a minute Bafana Bafana as well.

    Not being optimistic is frowned upon in some quarters I believe but please give me something to be positive about. Let’s hope next years rugby ‘revolution’ both domestically and in SR will reignite this country with all these up and coming youngsters of all colours being given merit based access to all our teams. Of course our deploying world class coaches blessed with rugby smarts and vision to coach these youngsters should be a priority as well. We’ve seen enough mediocrity these past ten years to last us a lifetime. Cheers.

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