It’s that wonderful time of the year again. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring is almost upon us, the bitter cold weather in Europe is starting to fade–meanwhile in the South Hemisphere, summer is still holding firm. Rugby fans are finishing their holidays, as their favorite teams are busily anticipating the upcoming Super Rugby 2017 season.
In just a few weeks time, for all rugby fans, players, coaches and pundits alike, it’s that time of the year again when they anticipate more of the best tries. Stunning offloads and hard-bashing tackles that come to mind when you think Southern Hemisphere rugby. Which can mean only one thing… Super Rugby is back!
Upcoming Super Rugby 2017
Among the most awesome rugby union championships in World Rugby, Super Rugby starts in late February. And again this season, 18 teams/franchises will square off to conquer the title of ‘the best professional team in the Southern Hemisphere.’
So who will be the new champions? What players will top the tables as try and point scorers? Who will be the Tackling Monster of 2017? Plenty of questions are on the minds of fans around the world. Try as we might, Last Word on Rugby will never answer all these questions. But what Francisco Isaac can do is give you his European ‘input.’ Which promising players he and LWOR are eager to follow and who will set the Super Rugby scene on fire?
Below is a list of the top five prospects to follow in 2017. While only opinion, with the studied use of statistics and data [taken off the official Sanzaar Super Rugby website] this list will hopefully show the value and game-changing ability of these five men.
1: SAMU KEREVI
Team: Queensland Reds
National Team: Australia (8 games / 15 points)
Super Rugby debut: 2014 – Round 16 vs Highlanders
An absolute powerhouse, a key problem solver and a strong physical player, Kerevi will make another great run in 2017–see main picture.
In 2016, the open-side center was one of the finest Queensland players, progressing almost 1000 meters. As well as achieving five tries (four assists) in 13 games. It doesn’t sound that good in comparison to Matt Faddes or Lionel Mapoe–but when you record that number of tries, against those scored by the Reds (33 in total), you get to the conclusion that Kerevi had 19% of tries/25% of try-assists of his entire team ‘total.’
Kerevi combines speed and impact, with the ability to open up closed defenses. While never giving up, even if his team is backed into a corner. He was selected again for the Wallabies, and the strongest image from 2016 for most was against England in the Summer Internationals. Kerevi suffered a small injury, that drew blood. But that never stopped the center from finishing strongly in a losing match.
For the Reds, the center maybe a strong link that can bind his team. Fit, he can be a game winner for them–something they did on very few occasions in 2016. With Kerevi at full-pace, that statistic should improve this season.
2: BLAKE GIBSON
National Team: New Zealand U-20
Super Rugby debut: 2015 – Round 11 vs Crusaders
Rugby fans fell ‘in love’ with Blake Gibson when he scored that momentous try against the Highlanders in the first games of the last Super Rugby. Escaping from two tacklers, he mauled Ben Smith on the way to the try line, to score an incredible flankers try.
Gibson was making quite an impressive season, as in the first seven rounds, he completed 80 tackles (88% success rate), eight turnovers and eight clean breaks. It was looking fantastic for him, a name to watch.
The injury in April took Gibson away from the game, until the last two matches where he jumped again onto the Auckland Blues field. The flanker was always a strong defender, a gifted tackler and an intense player. If those two matches were any indication, his future was bright.
Tana Umaga has to continue to get the very best out of the young Kiwi, as he could be the ‘next big thing‘ in the flanker department for New Zealand rugby. If anything, possibly a mix-breed of Sam Cane and Ardie Savea. That is a great mix to have in any competition.
3: ROHAN VAN RENSBURG
Team: Emirates Lions
National Team: South Africa (1 Int.)
Super Rugby debut: 2016 – Round 1 vs Sunwolves
One of the best players in all of Super Rugby 2016, Rohan van Rensburg finished the year with a solid debut for the Springboks in Wales.
The inside centre was always a menace for the opposition, as his final numbers showed it: 10 tries, five assists, 18 line breaks, 39 defender beaten and a massive 665 meters gained. Wow! And all this in his first season for the Emirates Lions.
That team went all the way to the Grand Final (losing to the Hurricanes) but overall, Van Rensburg was like the windmill for the Lions. Wiping away tacklers in attacking moves, playing his role with accuracy, breaking through more often than not. Reaching the try often, showing all the finesse and quality from the highly-tuned Johan Ackerman attack.
The number 12 can become a serious contender for the Springboks. That comes later, as in 2017 he is looking to score more tries and destroy more teams with the Lions
For many, he is the new future for South Africa rugby.
4: JACK DEMPSEY
Team: NSW Waratahs
National Team: Australia U-21
Super Rugby debut: 2015 – Round 14, vs Sharks
Another aussie making it to the list, as LWOR picked the incredible talent of 22 year-old Jack Dempsey. The fired-up flanker had quite an interesting season for the ‘Tahs, competing in 11 games.
Dempsey played an average 48 minutes per game, landing 47 tackles… and just failing one in all that time. A strategic kind of player, he knows well ‘how to tackle’ and the best way to stop his opponents with both ferocity and efficiency.
In a team where ‘Captain Australia’ Michael Hooper and the tough Jed Holloway as the flanking bosses. Dempsey made into the first team in the final games, with an excellent couple of runs–three tries by the end of the season–and a mouthwatering defensive play. He can stand tall beside every one of his team mates, and will look to grow in his role more in upcoming Super Rugby 2017.
The biggest question for most is “what will happen in this new season for this giant Aussie player?” Jack will determine that, given half a chance (and a start).
5: ANDRÉ ESTERHUIZEN
Team: Cell C-Sharks
National Team: South Africa U-20
Super Rugby debut: 2014 – Round 6 vs Bulls
The last entry on our list belongs to André Esterhuizen, a future Springbok in the making. Like a white shark, Esterhuizen likes to hunt his prey, and go for the tackle. Biting the opposition offense, making it [for them] a hard and fearful day on the pitch.
A strong and athletic player (1,92 meters), the junior Springbok has all the potential to grow to become one of the finest Sharks in recent years. His athleticism, combined with the power-play he owns, makes him one of the hardest players to stop in Super Rugby.
André Esterhuizen just needs a little more time to start his reign as one of the most dominant centers in South Africa. To get there, he will have to fight with Rohan van Rensburg for the number 12 shirt–but wouldn’t it be amazing if both Esterhuizen and Rensburg became the key pair of centers of tomorrow, for the Springboks?
If he carries his form, then he will force his way into contention.
This is just one opinion, do you agree with our picks? Did Last Word On Rugby leave somebody out? We are interested in your feedback and comments.
Talk to us online at LWOS Rugby Union and @LWOSRugby
“Main photo credit”