5 SA youngsters who lit up the URC

Jordan Hendrikse of the Lions has been called up to the Springboks squad in preparation for their Test against Wales. | BackpagePix

Jordan Hendrikse of the Lions has been called up to the Springboks squad in preparation for their Test against Wales. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024


The Bulls are the last South African side left standing in the United Rugby Championship after a lukewarm season for the local franchises. But despite that, a host of young players put their hand up during the tournament and have been rewarded by the Springboks.

Here, Leighton Koopman looks back at five youngsters under the age of 23 who impressed during their teams’ campaigns.

Ethan Hooker of the Sharks. | BackpagePix

Ethan Hooker – Sharks, centre

Suddenly, South Africa has a bright future when it comes to inside centres that can step into Damian de Allende’s shoes. Hooker is one of them – a strong, hard-running centre with some good soft skills.

It helped the 21-year-old immensely playing next to Springboks Lukhanyo Am and Francois Venter at the Sharks. But it’s not just on the attack where he stood out. He was solid defensively and in the Bok No 12 jersey, it’s needed.

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu of the Stormers. | Backpagepix

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu – Stormers, utility back

The Stormers rookie has been tipped as the next Damian Willemse, a prodigious talent able to play in various positions in the backline whenever he is needed to.

He’s been used more at inside centre this season but is seen as a flyhalf or fullback even though he hasn't really played in the No 10 jersey at his franchise. Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 22, was outstanding at the start of the season for the Stormers before an injury put a halt to his rise. He found his form late in the tournament again and had a good season as a utility back.

Cameron Hanekom of the Bulls. | BackpagePix

Cameron Hanekom – Bulls, loose forward

You don’t have to look further than Saturday’s massive hits on Benetton to know that Hanekom has been a defensive beast for the Bulls this season. Week after week he has been putting his body on the line for his side and he still has a crucial role to play in their quest to become URC champions.

His high defensive work rate has been an outstanding feature, but he is also an excellent mobile loose forward who loves to carry the ball into contact and play the role of support runner.

Quan Horn of the Lions. | Backpagepix

Quan Horn – Lions, fullback

That left boot and devastating runs from the back of the field will cause problems for opponents in years to come, if the Lions can keep hold of the talented Horn.

It was another fruitful year for the 22-year-old at Ellis Park, where he went from strength t -strength, making the No 15 jersey his own. He was an absolute rock and was rewarded with a place in the Bok squad for the international season.

Now, he needs to kick on from this, and in the Bok environment, his overall game is bound to improve.

Jordan Hendrikse of the Lions. | BackpagePix

Jordan Hendrikse – Lions, utility back

Mostly seen as a flyhalf, the 22-year-old has made massive strides at inside centre in the last couple of matches. He is a natural footballer, who kicks excellently but also knows how to use his big frame to his advantage.

The shift to the No 12 jersey could be vital for his career and although he will be leaving the Lions for the Sharks, this positional change added another dimension to his game.