EVERY YEAR, Super Rugby seems to throw up several star rookies or those with little experience at this level.
Here are six players who could be the talk of the town by season’s end.
BEAUDEN BARRETT (Hurricanes)
At 20, this versatile young footballer has the rugby world at his feet.
Like his Sharks counterpart Pat Lambie, Barrett can operate equally well at fullback or first five. He is listed as the latter on the Hurricanes website, but this writer feels his smooth running lines and skill are better suited to the back.
Last season he made four appearances for the ’Canes after being called into the squad.
But he has already made his mark for the New Zealand Sevens team, the NZ Under 20s and his province Taranaki, where he is following in the footsteps of his father Kevin, a long-serving lock for the union.
DECLAN O’DONNELL (Chiefs)
He’s 21, solidly-built, and fast.
O’Donnell burst into prominence with some eye-catching tries and runs for the New Zealand Sevens on their way to the title in Wellington last year.
The Waikato flyer only had his first taste of top provincial rugby towards the end of last season, so may battle for starting time at the Chiefs ahead of the likes of Lelia Masaga and Tim Nanai-Williams.
But if coach Dave Rennie can harness some of his undoubted potential, then O’Donnell could become a favourite with fans.
A back-three combination of O’Donnell, Masaga and Robbie Robinson has box-office appeal.
HUGH PYLE (Rebels)
The 23-year-old, 2.01m lock has already trained with the Wallabies and racked up 12 Super Rugby caps.
Not bad for a bloke who, 12 months ago, was as green as they come, with little first grade club experience to his name.
But he took his chance, jumping ahead of more seasoned Rebels teammates, scored two tries, did his basics well, and generally shone in a workmanlike pack.
Pyle was the club’s 2011 rookie of the year, and his challenge in 2012 will be to avoid the second year syndrome.
On the evidence of what he has shown thus far, that should be well within his grasp.
LIAM GILL (Reds)
It seems Gill has been earmarked for great things from a young age, and yet he is still just 19 as he enters his second year of Super Rugby.
Beau Robinson played some exceptional rugby in 2011 to keep Gill out of the Queensland Reds’ starting No 7 jersey as they marched to the title.
But Gill still made nine appearances, most of them telling and tireless.
In 2009 he won the coveted Bronze Boot as the best player for Australian Schoolboys in their annual trans-Tasman test, and followed that up with some industrious efforts for the Australian Sevens side under Michael O’Connor.
PAUL JORDAAN (Sharks)
The oil from Durban is that this 19-year-old talent could end up in the problematic Sharks No 13 jersey within the first few rounds.
Hailing from the East Cape and schooled at that noted rugby nursery Grey College, Jordaan turned heads with some fine displays for the SA Sevens team – the Blitzbokke.
He was also at the Sharks Academy in 2011, his first year out of school.
Coach John Plumtree has likened his bruising running to Ma’a Nonu, a huge rap.
Jordaan will have the veteran Marius Joubert to fend off, but he could strike up a useful midfield combination with Meyer Bosman
JOHAN GOOSEN (Cheetahs)
Last year Cheetahs No 10 Sias Ebersohn scored 179 points and controlled play well for the Bloemfontein-based franchise.
He saw off the challenge of Naas Olivier for the first five jersey. Olivier left the country, but now Ebersohn must contend with the prodigious boot of the precociously talented Johan Goosen, who lit up the Currie Cup for Free State with his silky skills and howitzer-like boot.
They say no penalty kick within 65m is outside his range. That sounds like another former Grey College pupil in Frans Steyn. So watch out for some long bombs in Bloem in 2012.« Back to Archives
This weekend throws up another set of games which could go either way.
Which player was unlucky not to make the Wallabies’ preliminary squad for the British and Irish Lions series?