South African Schools Team of the Decade…so far

As we have traditionally done at the start of the year, we look at our team of the decade so far (2020-2023) and update accordingly. Very few changes this year, but those changes reflect the sheer amount of talent available at South African school rugby level.

15) JC Mars (Paarl Boys, 2023)

Knocking Nabo Sokoyi off his perch he has held since 2020, 2023 was a breakout year for the Paarl Boys youngster with him being many punters player of the season.

What the youngster lacks in size he more than makes up in speed and footwork with there being no player since Cheslin Kolbe back in his Under 20 days showing this much ability at youth level. Mars will continue his journey at Western Province this year and expect big things from him, surely he has to be in the reckoning for the Junior Springbok squad this year?

Current Status: Signed to Western Province 2024 intake

14) Alfondso Isaacs (Grey College, 2022)

The speedster retains his place in our team of the decade so far, it was a massive shock to the system he didn’t get a run in during the Under 20 World Cup but no doubt this will be his year. His career at the Bulls has got off to a solid enough start and under the watchful eye of Wessel du Plessis expect him to flourish even further.

Current Status: Signed to the Bulls having played rep rugby from U19-U21 level for the Union

13) Suleiman Hartzenberg (Bishops, 2021)

One of the most naturally gifted athletes you are likely to see, his injury withdrawal from the 2023 Baby Boks was a massive blow for the teams title aspirations with Hartzenberg being one of the premier players in the 2022 outfit who won the Summer Series in Italy.

At school level he formed a formidable partnership with Bruce Sherwood, one of the best we have ever seen at schools level and with the latter having too signed at the Stormers do not be too shocked if you see these two rekindle that partnership in the future, a mouth watering prospect.

Current Status: Already playing senior rugby for the Stormers, expect 2024 to be a breakout year

12) Damian Markus (Stellenberg, 2022)

Markus still rules the roost at 12 in our opinion. Some of the best hands at school level plus a level of spatial awareness that belied his tender years he was the heartbeat of a Stellenberg team that rose to prominence and became a force within not only Western Cape but South African schools rugby.

Current Status: Playing senior rugby for Western Province

11) Ebenezer Tshimanga (Wynberg, 2020)

Tshimanga was an remains a genetic freak! The former Wynberg boy was a superstar at school level and we were truly robbed when all rugby was cancelled of seeing one of the best in their final year, his one match against Paul Roos in a shortened version of the game showcased his immense power and ferocity.

He was comfortable both on the wing and as a centre and the fact he has grown even more after school makes him a truly frightening prospect.

Current Status: Plying his trade in France with Section Paloise

10) Sacha Mngomezulu (Bishops, 2020)

The boy that was born to be a Springbok, Sacha remains one of my favorite schoolboy rugby players to have watched and having done this since 2018 says a lot. Schools rugby has been blessed with many fine flyhalves but Sacha just had that something extra about him, an X-Factor that cannot be trained, something one simply has or does not have.

His performances at senior level have shown the belief in him is not unwarranted and it’s a question of when and not if he puts on that famous green and gold jersey.

Current Status: A regular for the Stormers

9) Caleb Abrahams (Grey College, 2022)

There were some eyebrows raised when we named Abrahams our number 1 prospect for 2022, that years players were exceptional but game after game young Abrahams improved and showed why he was far and away the best scrumhalf in the country that year.

His crispy passing, sniping runs and tactical kicking with his trusty left boot made him a true triple threat scrumhalf and a bright future awaits if he continues working on his game and being patient.

Current Status: Signed to the Bulls

8) Siba Mahashe (Hudson Park, 2022)

It was a coin toss here, JJ Theron has performed exceptionally during his tenure at school level but Siba has to get the nod here purely based on the fact he went to Hudson Park which made it far more difficult for him to shine. An exceptional talent, a ball carrying monster and a player who has a bright future ahead of him.

Current Status: Signed to the Lions

7) Divan Fuller (Paarl Boys, 2023)

The bone collector gets our nod at 7, to displace the engine that was Lukas Meyer speaks volumes on how talented a player we view Divan as. His tackle went viral while he was still a pup at under 14 level and he never slowed down putting in some great performances for Paarl Boys during his time at the school.

Current Status: Signed to Western Province

6) Paul de Villiers (Oakdale, 2021)

How sad it was to not see a full season from the Oakdale Bulle in 2021, a truly once in a generation outfit. De Villiers was one of the stalwarts of this team and according to close sources there are few athletes out there at all levels that have his numbers in terms of his conditioning. He was captain of the Baby Boks in 2023 and although they had a disappointing campaign De Villiers still showed class and leadership during a tough tournament.

Current Status: Signed to Western Province, SA Under 20 captain

5) JF van Heerden (Grey College, 2022)

The Iron Giant will not soon relinquish this spot, this physical specimen has been among the best school players not only in his position but overall this decade. Whenever JF tackled you, you felt it for a week and is certainly amongst the most physically dominant players we have seen in a generation. He has everything in his arsenal to become a future Springbok. He was selected in the SA Under 20 squad for 2023 as a 19 year old meaning this will be his second year of eligibility and we look forward to a battle between him and Posolo.

Current Status: Signed to the Bulls, SA Under 20 2023

4) Connor Evans (Bishops, 2020)

Our first ever number 1 prospect keeps his place in our team of the decade, one of the rare players who played SA Schools in his rookie year 2020 things took a turn for the worst due to the situation and Evans had his senior year cancelled as a result but he would of walked into the SA Schools team with ease and no doubt a leadership role would have ensued.

Current Status: Signed to Western Province, capped by the Stormers

3) Jean Erasmus (Grey College, 2023)

Each year we publish a pre-season 15 to watch list of players and Erasmus was not on that list. As we always say we liked to be proven wrong and boy did he prove us wrong and then some. A brute in the scrum and one of the best schoolboy ball carrying props I have ever seen his performances were such that we simply had to name him to the World Under 18 XV last year. Expect massive things for this young player.

Current Status: Signed to the Bulls

2) Luca Bakkes (Paarl Gim,, 2022)

When your father was an ex hardman (Luther Bakkes) and owns a few McDonalds franchises there are certainly two things that are going to happen – you are going to be bought up tough and you wont be short of the food needed to grow and grow Bakkes did. I remember watching him at junior level and knew that we had found the successor to Malcolm Marx and when he finally did make his senior schools debut his bone crunching tackles and extraordinary work rate stood out. He is one of a kind and like others on this list will almost certainly wear the green and gold one day.

Current Status: Signed to Western Province, SA Under 20 squad 2024

1) Blokkies Lavagna (Paarl Gim, 2021)

Blokkies was a fan favourite during his time at Gim, an extremely powerful scrummager and a ball carrying brute he was selected for the SA Under 18 team to tour Georgia but the tour was naturally cancelled due to the situation. He has impressed for the Bulls as well as being selected to the SA Under 20 squad where he performed well in a scrum that struggled.

Current Status: Signed to the Bulls, SA Under 20 squad 2023

Coach: Pieter Rossouw

Beating Grey College twice in a row with a tactical masterclass only do be undone in 2023 yet still achieving a 3rd place ranking after a tough season which included a Paarl Derby win and any resident of Paarl will tell you that this is the game that matters.

Gim would have been a number 1 contender in 2020 with an exceptional squad and would have been ranked number 1 in 2021 had there been more games played. The class of 2022 had some bad luck in their losses to Paul Roos (interception) and Paarl Boys (controversial tries) but injuries to key players played a major part in their season not being up to the level they would of hoped and despite all this they were ranked 1 by the vast majority of ranking websites.

It is still early in the decade and expect the coaches of Grey College and Paul Roos to have their say in the coming years especially, keep an eye on this space.

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