Keep an eye on these five young stars
With 2012 now firmly behind us, we take a look at some promising players who could make their Springbok debut in 2013.
Although Bok coach Heyneke Meyer does not intend blooding too many new players this year as he seeks to build an experienced core through continuity in selection, there will still be opportunities to break into the national side.
With another intense Super Rugby season coming up there will be injuries to key players, whilst there are some positions which are by no means set in stone so there will be plenty for the young guns to prove in the coming months.
So here are five players who we expect to stand up and give Meyer some serious food for thought before the international season starts in June.
The young loosehead is heading into his third Super Rugby season, and after anchoring the table-topping Stormers scrum last year he will have set his sights on a spot in the Bok squad this year. Already a consistent performer at scrum-time who gets around the park well, Kitshoff has the potential to develop into a reliable long-term front row prospect for the Boks and this season could be key in making the step up. Although he is not likely to force the incumbent Tendai Mtawarira out of the team he should still get at least a taste of Test rugby.
Injury denied him his first Springbok cap last year, but the hard-working Stormers loose forward should get his chance to mix it at the top level soon if he can build on his highly encouraging 2012 season. The national selectors are certainly not short on back row options, so he will have a battle on his hands to earn his first cap, but his work-rate and energy make him well-suited to the demands of Test rugby.
With neither Francois Hougaard nor Ruan Pienaar making the scrumhalf jersey their own this year there may be a gap for a talented youngster to force his way into contention, and Reinach has the goods to do just that. The Sharks terrier has both a great pass and serious pace which make him quite a handful for the opposition, and after a promising Currie Cup campaign he is poised to make a big impact in Super Rugby.
The former Grey College flyer has struck up a dangerous midfield partnership with Tim Whitehead in Durban and this should be the season he starts challenging for higher honours. Although he is a bit smaller than the players usually selected by the Bok coach, Jordaan's ability to break the line cannot be ignored and he will certainly add some x-factor and attacking thrust if selected.
Although he is yet to make his Super Rugby debut, Rhule is sure to be one of the most closely-watched players in the South African conference after bursting onto the scene in 2012. His impressive finishing ability will be tested as opposition defences shut him down as quickly as possible. If he can handle the extra pressure and attention then he could well be in Springbok colours before the end of the year as he certainly has the speed and physicality to make his mark at Test level.
By Michael de Vries