JOHANNESBURG - With several first choice men missing, the Golden Lions have had to rely on several youngsters to help them through this year’s Currie Cup competition. Here, ahead of this weekend’s semi-final against Western Province at Newlands, rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen highlights the five rookies who’ve impressed him and who he believes can play a part in Super Rugby next season
The former Bulls man joined the Joburg-based team at the start of this season but was unable to break into the Super Rugby squad, having to stand behind Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira and Lourens Erasmus in the lock queue, but 2018 could be his year. Orie, 24, has become a key member of the Currie Cup squad this season, playing a leadership role among the forwards and has, according to his coach Swys de Bruin, been instrumental in the Lions performing so well at line-out time. De Bruin would do well to involve Orie from the start in 2018 and continue the rotation policy employed by former coach Johan Ackermann. As tempting as it is to use Mostert each week, in the long run getting Orie performing at that same level as the Bok workhorse will only benefit the Lions in future.
What a pity the former Jeppe scholar hasn’t started more regularly this season. A real star in the making, he has been used mainly as an impact player from off the bench, with coach De Bruin opting to cast his net wide. With other youngsters like Len Massyn and Jo Hanko de Villiers, the Lions are blessed with fantastic loose-forward talent. Twenty-year-old Dayimani, though, is a real rough diamond, a player with skills, strength and speed, and comfortable anywhere in the back-row. He has X-factor too, and it is this attribute that will help the swashbuckling youngster to go far in the world of rugby. It can only be hoped that the Lions coaching staff involve him in Super Rugby.
Marco Jansen van Vuren
Standing 1.88m tall and tipping the scales at 90kg, it’s no surprise the 21-year-old reminds many a rugby fan of Springbok great Joost van der Westhuizen. He even runs like him, standing tall with his upper body curved forward just a little. Jansen van Vuren got his chance in the Currie Cup only after Ross Cronje was called up to the Bok squad, Faf de Klerk left for England and Dillon Smit got injured. But boy, has he taken his chance. A junior star for South Africa, playing for the SA Schools team for two years and the SA U-20 side in 2015 and 2016, Jansen van Vuren is destined for big things in international rugby. He’s impressed massively in the Currie Cup; his swift pass and strong running the hallmarks of his game.
Lions boss Swys de Bruin will rest easy over December knowing he has more than enough back-up at flyhalf ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season. While Elton Jantjies will again be the first choice pivot next year - injury permitting, of course - the Lions now have quality depth with Davids coming through the ranks as well. Jaco van der Walt has also returned from injury and shown his worth recently at flyhalf, but it is the 24-year-old Davids who has impressed. He was a star for the junior teams, without getting much of a look-in at senior level, but he’s shown over the last few months he’s ready to step up if called upon next season. Like Jantjies, Davids enjoys attacking the gain-line and varies his game superbly.
What a year it has been for the University of Johannesburg star. He was one of the finds of the Varsity Cup competition this year, playing a starring role at centre for his team and was rewarded with a call-up to the Dream Team that faced the Junior Boks. The 22-year-old has been a real standout performer for the Lions on the wing, showcasing his skills, speed, eye for the gap and nose for the tryline and he’ll certainly add depth and quality to the Lions back division next season. The bonus is Dyantyi can play at centre and wing, which allows coach Swys de Bruin to use him where he wants. Also, the try machine has real X-factor making him a player who can hardly be ignored for very long. His time has come!