ICYMI: Five rookies to keep an eye on in Preparation Series
The friendly matches allow coaches to test their depth by picking younger players eager to make their mark in senior rugby.
Flyhalf Kade Wolhuter has already had a taste of the big-time. Picture: Getty Images
The Preparation Series of rugby matches currently underway is being used to keep players fit and active ahead of the international season and the move by the four big franchises into European rugby and particularly the Rainbow Cup.
The matches are also providing the coaches with an opportunity to test younger players in the wider squads.
Here we look at five young players who’ll be out to make a big impression in the coming weeks.
WJ Steenkamp (eighthman, Bulls)
Steenkamp got a rare opportunity to start in the opening match against the badly outplayed Elephants, but impressed with his mobility around the park. He was used as one of the team’s leading ball-carriers, and did his job well. Forming a loose-trio with stand-in captain Nizaam Carr and Tim Agaba, Steenkamp didn’t get on the scoresheet like his two flank partners but played a leading role as a linking player in several of the Bulls’ 12 tries.
Francke Horn (eighthman, Lions)
Being one of eight former U21 stars thrown in at the deep end against the Pumas last weekend at Ellis Park Horne enhanced his growing reputation. Already likened to somebody like star former Lions skipper Warren Whiteley because of his wide range of skills, Horn showed he has all the makings of a future star, playing a leading role in setting up the Lions’ first try scored by nippy little scrumhalf Morne van den Berg.
George Cronje (flank, Cheetahs)
Already compared to former Cheetahs and Bok legends like Andre Venter and Juan Smith, Cronje is also a tall No 7 flank, with speed to burn, while his physical presence makes him a player to keep an eye on. As a former pupil at the famous Grey College a bright future has been predicted for Cronje, who was a star at schoolboy level, and with the necessary experience and maturity gained he should be closely watched.
Jordan Chait (flyhalf, Sharks)
Chait got his big opportunity from the bench as backup to Manie Libbok in the Sharks’ opening game against Griquas last Sunday. Replacing Libbok in the second half Chait scored the last of the Sharks’ five tries after great build-up work by fullback Aphelele Fassi and also took over the goal-kicking duties from Libbok by converting the his team’s final two tries. Although slightly built, he has an incredible eye for space and is quick around the park, with a good boot to add to his skill set.
Kade Wolhuter (flyhalf, Stormers)
At only 19 years of age the former schoolboy star was put in the hot seat after being awarded his first starting opportunity at senior level last week. He impressed with his fine goal-kicking performance by scoring 16 points in the Stormers’ one-point defeat to the Cheetahs at the new Cape Town Stadium. Afterwards he was praised by Stormers coach John Dobson for his kicking, but also his defence and composure for such a young player.