Ahead of the start of Super Rugby on Thursday we pick out ten young players to look out for in the 2017 competition.
Josh Goodhue (Blues): 21 years of age and fully deserving of his Super Rugby contract at the Blues, this promising lock was on fire in the recent Mitre 10 Cup.
In one match he scored a hat-trick, against Canterbury no less, so knows his way to the try-line too. Goodhue looks up to Brad Thorn, a decent role model, and anything like the career the All Black enjoyed we are sure he’d be pleased with.
Roelof Smit (Bulls): A torn bicep cut short Smit’s European tour with the Springboks last November after he had impressed in the fixture against the Barbarians at Wembley.
Smit offers the Bulls a ton of power off the base of the scrum but it is his work as a rare “specialist” over the ball at the breakdown which has led to much excitement in Pretoria and beyond. Having never had the chance to make his Test debut against England, which was widely expected, expect him to come roaring back in 2017.
Ox Nche (Cheetahs): A fine young prop who was one of the standout performers for the Cheetahs in both Super Rugby and the Currie Cup in 2016, with the team going on to win the latter competition.
Of course like all long players Nche’s education in the front-row is an ongoing project, but, he has proven to be an excellent athlete including the spectacular try below. A big Super Rugby season should see the former South Africa U20 prop forcing his way into Allister Coetzee’s thoughts for the June Tests with France.
George Bridge (Crusaders): Five tries in eight games for Canterbury and with Nemani Nadolo and Johnny McNicholl moving on to Montpellier and Scarlets, holes needed to be filled at the Crusaders. The 21-year-old got the nod after clearly impressing Scott Robertson and we can see why.
By no means the biggest wing but he is rapid over the ground and can bump off a tackle too en route to the whitewash.
Jack Goodhue (Crusaders): Josh’s twin brother is a special talent who has all the qualities of becoming an All Black in the future.
Earning his stripes at Canterbury, the outside centre has played for New Zealand Sevens in the past and possesses a solid fend and smart rugby brain that we’ll have the pleasure of seeing in 2017. Looks up to Conrad Smith and there’s definitely similarities in his game.
Johnny Fa’auli (Chiefs): Another set to receive plenty of game-time due to the departures of players such as Seta Tamanivalu and Sonny Bill Williams along with Charlie Ngatai still being sidelined due to concussion, Fa’auli impressed for Taranaki and could form a dangerous partnership with Anton Lienert-Brown in midfield.
A strong yet elusive runner, Fa’auli certainly knows how to shut down defences.
Curtis Rona (Force): Scored 41 tries in a total of 57 matches for the North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL, which shows he has a decent pedigree to make an impact in Super Rugby.
The Force desperately need game changers and if he can feed off Dane Haylett-Petty in the back-three then expect the team from Perth to vastly improve on their competition low 25 tries from last season.
Marco Kremer (Jaguares): The 19-year-old is already capped at Test level and offers real physicality in the second row for the Jaguares, while proving so far in his career to be an efficent ball carrier and tackler.
Both the Jaguares and Argentina are currently blessed in this department after Guido Petti’s recent emergence too, offering them a long-term partnership, and also plenty of energy. Kremer signed a long-term contract at the end of January, welcome news given the recently announced departure of Facundo Isa to Toulon.
Plenty of top Jaguares will miss the opener with the Sharks this weekend due to injury, putting the pressure on the likes of Kremer to step up.
Jack Maddocks (Rebels): After impressing for Australia U20s, the 20-year-old full-back will be hoping to make the next step in his career this year. The 193cm player should have plenty of chances in Melbourne following Mike Harris’ departure.
Set to fight it out with Jonah Placid at 15 and may also find challenges from the back-up fly-halves. Shake them off and he should grow in confidence in 2017.
Takaaki Nakazuru (Sunwolves): The Suntory Sungoliath wing was named Top League MVP earlier this year, no mean feat, after his 17 tries in the competition. Now the Sunwolves will be desperately hoping that Nakazuru can replicate that finishing form up a level in Super Rugby as the side look for a replacement out wide for Akihito Yamada.
The onus is therefore on the 25-year-old to provide plenty of flair and he impressed in the recent pre-season outing against the Japanese All-Stars with his speed and strength to set up Timothy Lafaele.
Yamada last season was a huge success story in an otherwise dreary first season for the Japanese franchise, so the more Nakazuru can contribute out wide the better as they look to kick on in 2017.