Wednesday 15 May 2013

South Africa Future Rugby Stars 4/4

Long time coming.

See parts 1,2 and 3.


Jan Serfontein (age 20) Inside Centre

From the famed Grey's College, Serfontein has been one of the better debutantes to Super Rugby this year, Jan Serfontein has followed on from winning last year's IRB Young Player of the Year to starting 4 games in a row for the Bulls, winning Man Of The Match against the Southern Kings in Round 10.

He's been called up to the Springbok squad, and is a live contender for the 12 jersey. He is a hard strong runner, and solid defensive player with 11 tackle busts and making 48 of 50 tackles over his first 3 starts for the Bulls.

Sydney Morning Herald rugby columnist Paul Cully wrote in a piece headlined “Bullocking Serfontein shows the way for Australian rookies”, that the “outstanding young midfielder - big, strong, fast but with skills and vision - has the ability to change the way the Bulls attack and be a Springbok for years to come”.

Even more impressive is that Serfontein has chance to retain his Young Player of the Year title when he helps the baby Boks defend their JWC title in France in a few weeks.

Handre Pollard (age 19) Fly-Half

Another off the Bulls production line, a lot has been mentioned of Handre Pollard in South Africa. He is a stereotypical South African out-half, standing at 6'2'' and weighing a hefty 95 kg, Pollard is big for a 19 year old.

Strong in defense, as would be expected of someone of his size, he is in the Morne Steyn ilk of out-halves, with a strong kicking game, good placekicking, and an emphasis on game management and work ethic.

Just the type of fly-half Heineke Meyer loves. Another to be seen in the JWC this summer.

Planet Rugby did a report on him during last year's JWC:

"Who is he?
When South Africa's U20 coach Dawie Theron was asked to name a few players in his squad who would be worth keeping an eye on, it was Pollard who he spoke most animatedly about.

A large part of that was down to the fly-half's age - Pollard only recently turned 18 and is the only member of the Baby Boks squad who is still at school.

He attends the well-known Paarl Gym, which has produced Springboks such as Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, and will captain Western Province at the 2012 Craven Week in July.

According to his SARU player profile, he likes steak and Afrikaans music.


One of Theron's big points about Pollard was his size, and he's certainly tall for an 18 year old. At 6ft 2in he doesn't look out of place among players two years older than him, although he's not the beefiest guy in the backline.

Well-built and athletic, tall and upright, there's more pedigree than mongrel about him. He's not about to drive an opposing player back in the tackle, but he won't grant him any ground either.

South Africa's game against England was a good one to judge Pollard's passing, because the hosts needed four tries to make the semi-finals and were going to play running rugby.

As a result Pollard passed three times more than he kicked or ran, and the good snappy ball that he gave in the second half helped those outside him work their magic. It was more functional than spectacular though; fluid but not that inventive.

On Tuesday night his goal-kicking was flawless, although three of his four conversions were straightforward affairs and his distance was never tested because South Africa were not interested in notching up penalties from range.

His kicking out of hand was mixed - while he made some serious yardage with a couple of booming clearances, he failed to find touch on a couple of occasions, and criminally one of those was with a penalty.

England were well organised when it came to covering the long kicks, and so twice Pollard kicked aimlessly down someone's throat.

But his up and unders were excellent, allowing his wings plenty of time to get underneath them and trouble the English defence.

Such was Pollard's solidity that it was a surprise when he committed his only defensive error of the evening. England had a scrum ten yards from their own line and ran what was meant to be a crash ball to set up the clearance kick. Instead the English runner found himself sliding unchallenged through Pollard's channel - seemingly because the fly-half thought one of his back-rowers was covering - and running 40 yards upfield.

Pollard did his best to atone for the error though, throwing himself onto England's huge number 14 to prevent any further damage. Six other tackles on the night showed he's not one to shirk a challenge, and that such blemishes are rare.

They said
"We're waiting in excitement to see this guy at this level because we believe that he's got what it takes. He's definitely the guy that in three or four years' time from now, I believe he could be on everyone's lips," said Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron.

"If we look at him, at the moment he's 97kg and 190m tall, so that is serious size. There are some Super Rugby fly-halves who don't get close to that. He can kick the ball, he has a good feeling for the game and his distribution is very good, but then another one of his strong points is his defence."

It was a serious vote of confidence when Theron turned to Pollard for South Africa's clash with Italy. The hosts had suffered a surprise defeat to Ireland, and although the coach had always planned to give the youngest member of his squad some game time, Pollard showed enough to earn two starts ahead of Tony Jantjies, who is expected to match or better the abilities of his older brother Elton.

Pollard looked calm and composed on Tuesday night in front of a crowd that grew to around 12,000 at Cape Town Stadium. He wasn't the star of the show (if anyone, that was outside centre William Small-Smith, who has a great step and tremendous pace), but he looked far from overawed about making such a big step up.

In the first half South Africa were often on the back foot as they fluffed their line-outs, got turned over and struggled to match England at the scrum. It was difficult to judge any fly-half behind that sort of problem in the forwards, but there was no evidence of panic in Pollard's play.

Some of South Africa's more respected columnists have lamented a reliance on route one rugby. One of them cited Theron's gushing description of Pollard's size as evidence that this trend shows no sign of abating.

Having watched the 18-year-old in action there is some merit to these concerns, because if we were to compare him to a current fly-half it would probably be Morne Steyn. Pollard seems to have been set in the South African mould - he looks solid but lacking in flair.

Temperament is often the most important part of a player's make-up though, and so it would be no surprise to see Pollard develop into a first-choice Springbok fly-half in years to come. South Africans might just hope that he can add a few more strings to his bow. "

Arno Botha (age 21) Back row

Arno Botha has broken onto the scene this year at no.8 for the Bulls. So impressive his form has been that he has earned a call up to the recent South African training camp.

Arno Botha impressed in the Currie Cup last year and has excelled at the higher standard of Super Rugby.

Lionel Mapoe (age 24) Outside Centre / Winger (On Loan from Lions)
Morne Mellett (age 23) Prop
Louis Fouche (age 24) Fly-Half
Francois Venter (age 21) Inside Centre


Willie Le Roux (age 23) Winger / Full-back / Fly-Half

Willie Le Roux has been in awesome form this season.If their was a ready made replacement for Isa Nacewa in the world of rugby, Willie le Roux is that man. A playmaking winger, who runs great support lines, has great pace and a brilliant rugby mind, le Roux rarely stays on his wing. He is one of the reasons why the Cheetahs are doing so well, and why they are so entertaining to watch.

Raymond Rhule (age 20) Winger

With 5 tries, Rhule just shades his follow Cheetahs wing le Roux by one for the current campaign. The 20 year old with some serious gas has been part of this Cheetahs side that has lit up Super Rugby, and has been rewarded with a call up to the South African national side.

Lappies(Pieter) Labuschagne (age 24) Flanker

One of the best compliments I can give Labuschagne is that the Cheetahs have barely missed their go to man from last season, Ashley Johnson. Labuschagne is 3rd highest tackles made in Super Rugby this year, making 172 missing just 10, also contributing a not to shabby 5 turnovers/pilfers, 3 offloads, 5 linbreaks, 11 tackle busts.

Labuschagne has burst onto this scene this year, in his second year at this level.

And that's without mentioning future Bok superstar Johan Goosen.

Trevor Nyakane (age 23) Loosehead Prop
Coenie Oosthuizen (age 23) Loosehead Prop
Lood de Jager (age 20) Second Row
Philip van der Walt (age 23) No. 8 / Flanker
Johann Sadie (age 24) Outside Centre


Sergeal Peterson (age 18) Winger

Scoring the first try in the history of the Southern Kings Super Rugby campaign was a good was to introduce Sergeal Peterson. That he went on to score both tries in that game to win is something else.

Another graduate of Grey's College, Peterson was still a schoolboy there last year.

Wimpie van der Walt (age 24) Flanker

Wimpie van der Walt is the competition's leading tackler, missing only 9 of 185. Wimpie is one of the reason's why the Kings haven't been demolished more than twice, as would have been expected. He has been one of the most impressive performers of the Kings, and seems to be at the heart of all their work in attack, and to the fore in defense.

Demetri Catrakilis (age 23) Fly-half
George Whitehead (age 24) Full-back / Fly-half


Marcell Coetzee (age 21) Flanker

After a sensational breakout season last year, Marcel Coetzee was called up the Bok squad and won 12 caps. He's now a fixture in the Bok lineup, and at 22, will be a cornerstone to the Bok backrow for years to come.

From: Independent on Saturday

"When Marcell Coetzee was four-years-old and watching his older brother playing rugby, he quickly offered to take the place of an injured player so he could make a few tackles.

And not much has changed for the big Sharks flanker, who has racked up an impressive 232 tackles this season, putting him at the top of this stats list, while also holding more than his own at third on the list for making the most runs (158).

Coetzee, who has been outstanding in this year’s Super Rugby, and will no doubt make some big hits in today’s game against the Reds in Brisbane, grew up making many a tackle on his older brother, Armand, in the garden, often in the mud and rain at the family’s South Coast farm.

His mother, Delia, said her son had been passionate about rugby since he was a toddler.

“He couldn’t wait to get into Grade 3 so he could play rugby at school.

“When he was four, we were watching Armand play a match and someone was injured – the next minute Marcell jumped up, saying: ‘I’ll play, I’ll play.’

“Living on the farm, all the other farm kids would come over and they would play rugby. Marcell always loved tackling,” she said, adding that Sunlight soap played a large part in her life with all the mud-soaked clothes.

And, according to Delia, when Coetzee was not outside playing rugby, he could happily play on his own for hours.

“When he was growing up, he was quite introverted. But he also has a huge sense of humour and is such an affectionate person.

“He is also a committed Christian and is very principled. If he makes a stand, no one will make him change,” she said.

When he was in primary school, his principal remarked to his parents that if Coetzee continued to play as he was, their son could one day be a Springbok. His role model was Pierre Spies, whom he now plays alongside.

Fast forward a couple of years and Coetzee entered Grade 8 at Port Natal School behind his brother, who was already playing for the school, and coach Jan van Straaten immediately realised he had another Coetzee star in the making.

Now director of sport for the school, Van Straaten described Marcell Coetzee, who became the school’s first team captain, as “very charismatic and a natural leader”.

“In Grade 11, he was made a prefect for the boarding establishment which was very unusual as the boarding prefects are normally only chosen from the matric year. He just stood out and, as captain of the first XV in matric, he was very good at leading the whole team,” said Van Straaten.

Under Coetzee’s captaincy, the Port Natal rugby team enjoyed a sensational season, winning 23 consecutive matches.

“He also did well academically. It was a pleasure working with him,” he said.

Coetzee did not make Craven Week or Academy Week, and never played for KZN, but his coaches urged him to not let selectors decide his fate.

Deciding not to let his dream slip through his fingers, Marcell trained for six months under ex-Blue Bulls player Jannie Brooks in his gym garage in Pretoria and then entered the Sharks Academy.

It was during the Currie Cup last year that people sat up and took notice of this thundering player; and this year he joined Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok team for the Test series against the English.

“Singing the anthem and playing my first cap as a Springbok was the proudest moment in my life,” he said from Brisbane this week.

And Delia was right behind him: “When he came out in that Springbok jersey, we were all in tears, it was just so huge.”

And Marcell is very much a Durban ‘boykie’, saying his favourite places in the city are the beach and uShaka. He enjoys relaxing at the farm or going to Pretoria to visit his girlfriend, Chanelle – sorry, girls, he’s taken.

But it’s not only his mom who’s his biggest fan, as rugby in the Coetzee household is definitely a family affair. Both his grandfather, Dirk, and father, Dries, are former rugby players. His younger sister, Andrea, excelled at hockey and Delia loved netball.

As a family friend said, “when the Coetzees are not watching a live rugby game, they are watching a previous game and going through it. The television only ever has rugby on in that house”.

Although Armand and Andrea are away from home, the family will travel to wherever Marcell may be playing.

“Then we go home, have a braai and watch the match all over again,” Delia laughed.

And this week’s match in Australia is the first time the family won’t be cheering from the sidelines. But they will be there in spirit and Delia will make her son’s favourite steak and chips when he gets home.

No doubt it will be a big one."
Paul Jordaan (age 21) Outside Centre
Cobus Reinach (age 23) Scrum-half
Sean Robinson (age 19) Winger / Fullback


Siya Kolisi (age 21) Flanker

It's a crime that Siya Kolisi doesn't have a Springbok cap already. In a debut season where he along with Coetzee were the two standout backrowers in the competition, Kolisi was strangely overlooked. 

He is a typical Bok backrower, fearless in the tackle, and carries a lot. His second season hasn't been as good, but he's been one of the better performing players in a difficult season for the Stormers. Definitely one to watch. If he doesn't get a Bok cap soon, he'll be heading to Europe.

Jaco Taute (age 21) Full-back / Outside Centre (On loan from the Lions)
Steven Kitchoff (age 21) Loosehead Prop
Frans Malherbe (age 22) Tighthead Prop
Rynhardt Elstadt (age 23) Flanker/ Second Row
Elton Jantjies (age 22) Fly-half
Gary van Aswegen (age 23) Out-half
Gerhard van den Heever (age 23) Winger / Full back

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