Young guns to watch in 2015
There is no shortage of exciting young talent in South Africa, but which young stars will make the step up to the next level?
The saying goes that if you are good enough then you are old enough, and there is enough evidence that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer subscribes to this school of thought with a wide range of ages in his squad.
However, players that show a lot of promise in the junior ranks do not always go on to shoot straight into the Springbok side like Handre Pollard has done.
There are a lot of young players with a lot of potential in South Africa, but these are the players we think it would be worth keeping an eye on next year as they look to show they can step up.
Five players to watch in 2015:
The Bulls fullback was still in school last year, but wasted little time in making an impression this year. He featured for Tuks in the Varsity Cup, played Vodacom Cup and then started at the back for the Junior Boks as they came up just short in New Zealand. He was called up to the Springbok Sevens squad at the end of the year, and has winners medals from his only two tournaments in Dubai and Port Elizabeth. This leaves him poised to break through at the Bulls, and with speed, size and skill he has all the tools he needs to succeed.
Thomas du Toit
Although he went to school in Paarl, Du Toit always wanted to play for the Sharks which he did in his first year out of school this year. The burly prop made his Super Rugby debut before going on to bully those his own age at the Junior World Championship which he will be able to play in again next year. With Tendai Mtawarira coming towards the end of his career Du Toit looks to be his logical successor at Kings Park and if he manages to avoid injury he looks set to enjoy a long career at the highest level.
Robert du Preez
The son of the former Springbok scrumhalf with the same name, Du Preez has shown that he has what it takes to step out of his father's shadow. Having kept Handre Pollard out of the Junior Bok starting line-up last year he made a move to the Cape and was named as player of the Varsity Cup after running the show for Maties. That loan deal led to a full contract with Western Province, and he went on to play flyhalf for their Under-21 side that lost in the final to the Blue Bulls. A physical playmaker who has a strong kicking game, Du Preez will be behind Kurt Coleman and Demetri Catrkilis next year, so his opportunities are likely to come in the Vodacom Cup at first.
Armand van der Merwe
Another product of Outeniqua High School, 'Acker' van der Merwe's impressive form for the table-topping Pukke in the Varsity Cup saw him get a call-up to the Lions Super Rugby squad this year. Although he played Vodacom Cup and First Division for Leopards last year, by the end of the year he was starring for the impressive Golden Lions front row in the Currie Cup. An abrasive hooker who is powerful and tough to bring down, he will be one of the key players in Lions coach Johan Ackermann's squad.
Nico Janse van Rensburg
One of the latest products of the rugby factory across the road from Loftus Versfeld known as Affies, Janse van Rensburg showed what he is capable of playing alongside JD Schickerling for the Junior Boks. A tall and imposing lock who is solid at line-out time, Janse van Rensburg also has an impressive turn of pace and can punish teams if allowed too much space. He impressed as an impact player for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup, and will now look to do the same in Super Rugby next year.
By Michael de Vries