With the new Super Rugby season starting at 6:35am (GMT), here are some names to look out for:
Johan Goosen (Cheetahs):
Just 21 years of age, Goosen is part of the new young crop of fly-halves emerging in South Africa, along with teammate Sias Ebersohn, Patrick Lambie at the Sharks and Elton Jantjies at the Lions. For some writers in SA, his rise to becoming the starting fly-half for the Springboks is inevitable. He possesses one hell of a boot and is quick on his heels, with Sonny Bill Williams’ hands. You can see all of these talents here.
Joshua Strauss (Lions):
The iconic beard may be gone, but Strauss is a player on the rise in South Africa. Competing with numerous talented individuals for a Springbok jersey, this could be his breakthrough year. A hard-runner in the loose, Strauss was superb for the Lions last year as captain, putting his body on the line and constantly leaving opponents on the deck. His leadership was exemplary in 2011, and crucial to the Lions’ Currie Cup success.
Sarel Pretorius (Waratahs):
After finishing last season with highest number of assists for the 2011 tournament (15), former Cheetahs scrum-half Pretorius has crossed the Indian Ocean and linked up with the Waratahs in Sydney. One of the most dynamic 9s in the competition, his turn of pace truly is electrifying, with this video giving you a good idea of what he’s all about.
Mike Harris (Reds):
How do you fill the boots of Quade Cooper? Well, you could do worse than asking Mike Harris. The man from North Harbour did so admirably last season when Cooper was sidelined, racking up nine Super Rugby appearances from fly-half and inside centre. With three tries last year, plus an accurate six from six shots at goal against the Lions, Harris is a solid, more conventional operator with tons of talent.
Tyler Bleyendaal (Crusaders):
A bit like Harris stepping into the boots of a magician, Bleyendaal starred for New Zealand at the Under 20s World Cup last year and now with Dan Carter out injured and not expected to return until late March, has been tasked with taking charge of the Crusaders back line. Great set of hands and an accurate boot.
Johann Sadie (Bulls):
Plenty of hype surrounding this man in South African rugby. Having made the move north from the Stormers, stuck behind Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh, Sadie starts the season tomorrow against the Sharks in the 13 shirt where many would like to see him playing for South Africa come the summer. Blessed with impressive speed and balance, this try should give you an idea of what he can do.
Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders):
When you’re singled out as being ‘the next Brad Thorn’ for the All Blacks, the pressure is definitely on. Although well into his career at 28, Hoeata made his debut for New Zealand last summer but missed out on selection for the Rugby World Cup squad. With Thorn now gone, Hoeata will compete with former team mate Tom Donnelly for the All Black number four jersey, and as you’d suspect judging by the man he’s been compared to, is a very physical character around the park along with being excellent in the air.
Who are your picks to look out for this year? Let us know below.
by Ben Coles