JOHANNESBURG – A week out from the start of the 2019 edition of the Super Rugby competition, rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen highlights five rookie Lions players who could make a big impression in the coming months.
The 21-year-old loose-forward is not quite the new kid on the block, having been part of the Lions set-up since leaving school three years ago.
A star in the junior ranks, Dayimani burst onto the senior scene last year and was one of the finds of the 2018 season.
His good hands and turn of speed make him a real asset at loose-forward and he is comfortable at both flank and eighthman. With Lions skipper Warren Whiteley set to be managed by the national selectors in this World Cup year, expect Dayimani to get plenty of game time at the back and side of the scrum.
The lock forward will fancy his chances of being a regular squad member this year after producing some strong performances in the Currie Cup competition last year.
Aggressive and strong in the line-outs he’ll probably be one of four locks, alongside Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira and Ruan Vermaak, to be employed by the Lions this year.
And with Franco Mostert no longer around there’s an opportunity for someone else to stand up and do the hard graft the Bok lock became known for - perhaps Herbst?
With mercurial flyhalf Elton Jantjies’ game time set to be closely monitored up until the World Cup, someone else will be asked to wear the Lions No 10 jersey from time to time during the Super Rugby campaign and that person looks likely to be Reynolds.
The 23-year-old was a real star for the juniors and in the Currie Cup last year, but in 2019 he’ll be asked to step it up in the big leagues.
A prolific goal-kicker, Reynolds is the man the Lions management have backed to be Jantjies’ back-up; it’s his time to shine on the big stage.
The 21-year-old has been brought into the Lions camp from the Stormers to fill the place of Bok tighthead Ruan Dreyer, who is now playing his rugby for Gloucester in England.
The former Bellville High pupil is believed to be the real deal when it comes to scrumming, and his new employers will hope he comes up trumps.
He’ll be determined to show his worth having had to sit behind Boks Wilco Louw and Frans Malherbe in the Cape, so 2019 could just be the big breakthrough year for the highly-rated prop.
He’s only 20 years old and already being talked about as a future Bok. Simelane has starred for every team he’s played for, from high school at Jeppe to the SA Under-20s now it’s his time to shine in Super Rugby.
He has all the skills and pace, but breaking into the team could prove his biggest challenge; he has the likes of Aphiwe Dyantyi, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Combrinck, Sylvian Mahuza and Madosh Tambwe ahead of him in the queue.
But his patience and hard work are surely going to be rewarded, though.@jacq_west