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The top ten rookies

In every Super Rugby season there is a host of new talent on show as the next generation of starlets either sink or swim in the southern hemisphere’s brutal competition.

A first taste of Super Rugby must come as a shock to the system, with its fast pace, high intensity and physically demanding format making it a place where only the toughest can survive.

There have been impressive performances from the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Michael Hooper and Aaron Smith, but these stars aren’t newcomers to Super Rugby this season.

Here are the top ten rookies who have caught the eye in 2012:

Ben Tameifuna
20 years old
Tighthead prop
Chiefs

The big front ranker was called on as emergency cover for the Chiefs initially, but it might be tough for anyone to get the No.3 jersey off him this season. The former New Zealand Under-20 ace is a massive unit at 134kgs, and looks to share his passion for rugby in the Chiefs front row with his cousin Sona Taumololo.

Eben Etzebeth
20 years old
Lock
Stormers

The former UCT Ikeys enforcer – a Varsity Cup star in 2011 – looks to be the kind of second row bruiser that South Africa has been calling for to take up the mantle from Bakkies Botha. For a youngster in the second row Etzebeth has adapted brilliantly to the rigours of Super Rugby and hasn’t taken a step backwards since pulling on a Stormers jersey.

Brodie Retallick
20 years old
Lock
Chiefs

Standing at 2.04m, Retallick is a man mountain and has already shown he is a skillful line-out jumper. The big forward was in the winning Baby Blacks team that lifted the IRB Junior World Championships and has made a big impact in the engine room for the Chiefs this season, and is very athletic for such a big man.

Marcell Coetzee
20 years old
Loose forward
Sharks

Despite having played a handful of matches midway through last season’s Super Rugby campaign, this is Coetzee’s first year as a regular – qualifying him for a place amongst the rookies. The impressive loose forward is capable of playing all across the back row, and has proved to be a handy ball carrier and solid defender for the Sharks this year.

Siya Kolisi
20 years old
Loose forward
Stormers

Kolisi has been a revelation since replacing injured Stormers skipper Schalk Burger. The strong flank was on the fringes of the team last year, and has grabbed his chance during this campaign brilliantly with some outstanding tackling in particular as his major weapon. It’s no easy task filling Burger’s boots, but Kolisi has done a great job (playing out of position? Usually a blindside but has tackled his ass off as an openside not as much ball carrying).

TJ Perenara
19 years old
Scrumhalf
Hurricanes

The ‘Canes scrumhalf appears to be the cream of the crop in a fantastic batch of young No.9s in New Zealand. Perenara captained the New Zealand Schools side in 2010, and was part of last year’s victorious Baby Blacks team. His hat-trick in his first start for the Hurricanes showcased his BMT and willingness to take on players more than twice his size.

Beauden Barrett
20 years old
Flyhalf
Hurricanes

Barrett made four very brief appearances off the bench for the ‘Canes last season, while Aaron Cruden was injured, but has only made a real mark this year. Surprisingly he played at fullback for the Baby Blacks last year, as there was an abundance of flyhalves, but it has been in the No.10 jersey that he has made everyone sit up and take notice this season with his creative play and eye for a gap.

Johan Goosen
19 years old
Flyhalf
Cheetahs

The Golden Goose has been spotted early as something special, and has the full range of skill and more talent than you can shake a stick at. If Goosen reaches his full potential then there could be a new superstar emerging. The youngster has a good head on his shoulders and is able to control the game, put in big tackles and land drop-goals from the 50m mark – he needs to be carefully looked after.

Jesse Mogg
22 years old
Utility back
Brumbies

The best of the young Australians cutting their teeth at Super Rugby level for the first time this year is the Brumbies backline starlet. Mogg has proved that he has a great turn of pace, a big boot and can operate out on the wing or at fullback. While he is yet to experience any serious tests, he is a finisher and picks his moment to join the line well, scoring a try on debut against the Force.

Willie le Roux
22 years old
Utility back
Cheetahs

The unpredictable utility back has an incredible natural instinct for attacking play, and is one of those rare players able to create something from nothing. Le Roux has operated out on the wing for the Cheetahs, but is often more effective as a flyhalf or fullback – where he played for the Boland Cavaliers last year.

By Timmy Hancox

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