Previous articles in our XV series:
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Our XV series continues by looking at the South African School Rugby Seasons Surprise Package XV. These are players that were somewhat under the radar at the beginning of the 2021 season but proved their ability on the field with performances that shocked and awed many.
15) Matthew Golden (Oakdale Landbou)
Golden came out guns blazing this year with some exceptional displays for the Bulle. Exceptional speed off the mark and great awareness his move to the Cheetahs will be seen as a major coup by those in the know and no doubt he will look to continue his fine school form into the senior game.
14) Risima Sambo (Affies)
There are few athletes in South African school rugby right now with the level of natural athletic ability that Sambo possesses, named to the SA High Performance squad such is his potential that many are backing him as one of the top prospects to keep an eye on in South Africa for 2022.
13) Tom Daniels (Grey High)
A powerful and hard running outside centre Daniels looked to be scoring tries for fun in the early part of the season. Yet another disruptive season of rugby meant he did not have enough time to shine but we sincerely hope he keeps on with his rugby career and he is someone that can certainly go a long way in the game.
12) Katlego Letebele (KES)
A break out year for a break out star! Katlego started off the year not on the radar of many, that was until he was selected for the EPD Squad and became the talk of school rugby circles. Some excellent performances in the KES jersey over the years have reinforced the belief his coaches have had in him and there is little doubt that a big future could await the young starlet.
11) Levandre Horn (Durbanville)
Horn has wheels and gas in his tank, both in spades and is someone you should be keeping a close eye on. 6 tries in one game shows you what a lethal finisher he can be and that is no flook. His positioning is outstanding and always manages to find himself in the right place at the right time and further is no slouch on the defense. Another young talent heading off to the Cheetahs, remember the name!
10) Tiaan Kriek (Westville)
Tiaan is a simply put one of the most under appreciated assets in youth rugby right now! With contracts being handed out left and right it is another head scratcher that he has yet to receive any firm offers at the time of writing. Possessing outstanding athletic ability, high rugby IQ and an educated boot he further underlined his credentials with one of the tries of the season. Keep a close eye on Kriek, he is a player who no doubt will be going places!
9) Christian Els (Glenwood)
Being behind Nico Steyn in the Glenwood class of 2020 meant Els had little chance of showcasing his ability in front of school rugby audiences but that’s not to take anything away from this talent. A nuggety scrumhalf who thrives in an open and attacking team Els has an extremely high work rate, crisp passing ability and is no slouch in terms of his tactical kicking either. He will be joining the Sharks in 2022 and while he will face a lot of competition at the Union there is no reason why he wont be a key player for them at youth level and from there, who knows?
8) Guy Bishop (Selborne)
It would be hypocritical for us not to acknowledge our own failures in terms of talent identification when we have done the same to the SA Schools selectors, the fact that Bishop never made our initial PACS 100 list was criminal and we put our hands up and admit as much.
With little rugby played and the fact he was injured in his Grant Khomo year we missed Bishop but seeing him in action for a few games it became clear that he was one hell of a talent. Blessed with incredible speed for a man anchoring the scrum and a physical specimen we do not yet know about his next move but whoever signs this young talent will be getting an all star prospect.
7) Ruan Venter (Paarl Boys)
We were made aware of Venter in early 2020 by some pupils at Sutherland High who were in awe of his playing ability and we were in strong agreement.
The move to Paarl Boys was a stroke of genius, his first game and with his first touch he scored a try that set the precedent for the season that would follow. There is hardly a weakness that exists in Venter’s game, a master of all trades his immense physical presence is combined with good pace, excellent carrying ability and a work rate that has seen him being called up to the Lions Under 20 team for the 2021 season where he was one of the top players in the tournament, had he played more games it would have been impossible not to name him in our team of the tournament.
6) Corbin Thunder (Maritzburg College)
Corbin was a thunderous (pun intended) hooker prospect and then made the switch to blindside where he was proved to be a revelation. The Maritzburg of old were known for producing the toughest “souties” in the country, taking on all comers and Thunder is the modern day incarnation of those glory days.
His defensive qualities cannot be understated, his leading from the front leadership style inspires his troops and many felt he was a key reason for College winning some games many pundits felt they had no business winning.
A move to Europe seems to be on the cards, keep a close eye on Corbin, we have a feeling that his grit and determination will see him go very far in the game.
5) Patrick Kitete (Outeniuqa)
The first time we saw Kitete take the field for the Kwaggas it was painfully obvious that the youngster had star quality written all over him. An immense ball carrying lock, Patrick’s sheer presence on the field is enough to make anyone who has seen him play take notice.
Kitete is still in his rookie year meaning that we will thankfully see him back in 2022 and that is something that the public will be thankful for, it would have been a shame not to see him on the field of play because of the situation.
4) Merwe Olivier (Grey College)
Merwe is a monster! How someone this young can be that size is beyond belief! Seeing him stand next to the interviewer after his man of the match heroics at the Monnas festival just gave an indication as to how much of a unit Merwe really is.
He doesn’t just rely on his size however, the young lock/loosie is a mobile ball player who is rock solid on defense and puts in some bone crunching tackles. He will continue his rugby career in Pretoria come 2022 where he will join ex-Grey College coach Wessel du Plessis. If Merwe grows much more then other forwards out there will surely not be looking forward to facing him.
3) Frankie dos Reis (Paarl Gim)
On paper many were excited to see the Paarl Gim backs play this year, some truly terrific backline talent was evidently going to be coming through but few could have anticipated the effect the Gimmies forward pack would have this year.
The front row of Lavagna, Lombard and dos Reis were epic in every way, they did their job quietly and effectively allowing the backs the freedom to play with the flair and confidence everyone anticipated.
Frankie is a very solid player and if he is given the time and right mentorship there is no telling how far he can go.
2) Joshua Eras (Stellenberg)
What a year it has been for young Eras. A key member of the Jade Brigade, a team who defied all expectations this year Eras has proven himself to be one of the finest young hookers in the country. The position is stacked this year with players such as Calvert, Bakkes and Breitenbach impressing greatly but if ever there was a dark horse it is Joshua Eras!
The Bulls seem to have liked what they have seen with the youngster signing pro papers with the Pretoria based outfit and the move may turn out to be the catalyst for a very fine rugby career.
1) Aviwe Mpepo (Noord-Kaap)
Noord-Kaap are one of those schools that produce quality players but never get the recognition they truly deserve, one has the feeling that Mpepo is going to be a player that will make his school extremely proud in the future.
Immensely powerful his scrumming ability must be one of the best in the country, his technique and raw strength has seen him make mince meat out of his opposite numbers. His work ethic, humility and willingness to learn mean that we believe he will go on to have a fantastic career! Watch this space!