- SA Youth Rugby Weeks always showcases a wealth of talent that makes life easy and hard for coaches.
- Craven’s Under-18s and Academy weeks, along with last week’s South African Schools match, wrapped up on Thursday.
- The Under-18s will play a host of matches against their European opponents next month, a key step for their progression to Under-20 level.
SA Youth Rugby Weeks is officially over with schools reopening for the third term on Tuesday as the winter rugby season draws to a close.
There is still an Under-18 Championship at the end of August which generally attracts European teams competing alongside South African Under-18 Schools teams.
The important part is that there is still the Under-20 World Championship in South Africa next year, with the Academy and Craven Weeks being the springboard for players to progress to the age-group World Cup.
Here are some players who have not only excelled in the weeks but may be asking burning questions after their Under-18 performances:
Jean Erasmus (Free State)
The well-fitted tight head brace in South Africa may soon dry up, but Erasmus has shown real promise in the past two years.
Initially not a starter last year at Gray College, he put in an effort and worked his way through Craven Week to become one of the most popular three centers in the country.
A tight head is a difficult position to play and maintain, as players turnover is high and staying power is low.
If he continues his excellent development chart, he could be an important anchor in the coming years.
Close contenders: Sibabali Boy (Eastern Province), Simphiwe Ngobisi (Sharks), Hermann Loeb (Western Province)
People Hulkani (Eastern Province)
Locks were expected to rejoice in George’s muddy conditions, but this was the week when the blind side faux pas thrived.
Halikani, who is from Jakibirha but went to Graeme College in Makanda, has been truly exceptional in the strongest side in the Eastern Province for nine years.
He did everything expected of a blind winger, despite the hotly contested position in South African rugby.
He’ll have serious competition once he leaves school, but in the meantime, he’ll be unrivaled. From a lock perspective where the stocks were extraordinarily weak, Western Province’s Danio Botta was the best.
Close contenders: Marno Stopforth (Free State), Devan Fuller (Western District), De Wit Forey (Eastern District), Zola Nyali (Western District)
Dominic Malagas (East Zone)
The EP’s large number of talent at half-back means that the Nico Malan gem should be used in the 10 and 12 respectively.
He excelled at both positions, finally getting a bundle of real power that allowed him to thrive compared to the ones he had at school.
He kicked, ran and passed well in difficult conditions and showed real glimpses of excellence that can and should take him to the Under-20s next season.
JT Kapank was a real find for the Lions, but Vusi Moyo was a cut above the rest in Academy week and drew the short straw by being at Jeppe Boys High School and not at George.
Close contenders: JT Kabank (Black), Chris Horak (Sharks), Yakin Ahmed (Western Province), Luan Guillomi (Boland), Chad de Baer (Border)
Exhaust Kaifani (Golden Lions)
The Golden Lions coaches still need to explain the omission, because the running back of Jeppe Boys High School’s linebacker has been without peer, and he’s the best outside center in the country.
Somehow, he finds himself playing at Kensington instead of Outeniqua Park as the vagaries of school selection get in his way.
He was splendidly embodied for the Lions who emerged as best team in the Division II Regional Youth Week.
Close Rivals: Gino Cupido (Western District), Campbell-Riddle (Sharks), Dimitri Erasmus (Bulls)
JC Mars (Western Region)
Fullback is probably the most controversial center in SA Schools rugby, but Mars is simply better than anyone else.
He is a well-balanced runner and an excellent kicker who handles the high ball well. He can do it all, including making defenses look static.
He has been SA Schools’ most dominant full-back in rugby in the past two years and with form, fitness and development allowing, he should cause a fit selection headache.
Close contenders: Jaco Williams (Sharks), Jermaine Dambis (Eastern District), JT Strydom (South West Districts), Tehrani Masondo (Black)