With Superhero Sunday, taking place this weekend at FNB Stadium, signalling the countdown to Super Rugby in earnest, we identify five players who might have a point to prove in this year’s edition.
Cyle Brink (flank, Lions)
It’s no big secret that the powerful-built, robust blindsider featured heavily in Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ plans over the last two years, but the injury bogey kept holding him back.
Turning 26 on Thursday, Brink is now one of the senior Lions players, having amassed 45 Super Rugby caps since 2016 and would be hoping to stay injury free and make a big impact for a team desperately in need of him staying fit.
Could this also be the year where he’s shifted to the No 8 jersey?
Curwin Bosch (flyhalf, Sharks)
Many feel the versatile youngster’s talents were being wasted at fullback, but now that Robert du Preez jr has left for England after being preferred at 10 last season, the door has opened for the 22-year-old to make the jersey his own.
At 22, he’s earned earned just the two Bok caps to date yet now that he has addressed his defensive issues, this might just be the year where he finally comes into his own.
A relative lack of competition for his position at King’s Park should also mean extended game-time in his preferred position.
Josh Strauss (eighthman, Bulls)
Since the bearded flanker lifted the Currie Cup in 2011 as Lions captain, he left for the Glasgow Warriors (104 caps), where he also played 15 Tests for Scotland and later turned out for Sale Sharks and Stade Francais.
Now 33 years of age, he was effectively recruited by the Bulls to fill the void left by the departure of Bok star Duane Vermeulen.
Strauss’ no-nonsense approach could fit in well with coach Pote Human’s approach and gameplan, while there’s also some personal pride at stake – he effectively played himself out of Scotland’s World Cup squad last year.
Damian Willemse (flyhalf/fullback, Stormers)
He might have a World Cup winners medal in his possession, but last year was an injury nightmare.
Willemse has been identified by new Stormers coach John Dobson as a player who should concentrate on the No 10 jersey.
While six Bok caps seems meagre, the gifted playmaker has played for the Stormers since 2017 and actually anchored the Cape franchise’s backline as first-choice pivot in 2018.
It’s time for him now to elevate his game … as long as he doesn’t get shifted around again between 10 and 15.
Manie Libbok (flyhalf, Bulls)
Big things have been predicted for the skilled pivot ever since his Super Rugby debut in 2018 and having grown under former Bulls captain Handre Pollard, who have since departed for French club Montpellier.
The Bulls have recruited veteran former Bok star Morne Steyn to provide guidance and help Libbok grow his game even more.
But the diminutive flyhalf needs to be careful not to lose his place to his senior teammate.