Among the exciting youngsters and established stars, there are quite a few local players with points to prove in 2018’s Super Rugby campaign.
With a new dispensation headed by Rassie Erasmus, Saru’s director of rugby, already making its presence felt, the time is ripe to remind the decision-makers of one’s worth.
Here are five players sitting in this boat.
WARREN WHITELEY (LIONS)
Through no fault of his own, the Springbok captain is now thought be out of the reckoning to continue in his role.
Whiteley seemed to be driving a new culture in the national team during the series against France last year before a serious groin injury ruled him out for the rest of the year.
Despite Allister Coetzee, then Bok coach, struggling to initially settle on a specialist No 8 to replace him, the return of Duane Vermeulen has apparently upset the apple cart.
Suddenly, there’s talk of a return to South Africa and, as a result, a change in leadership because of Vermeulen’s pedigree.
But Whiteley will most certainly go down swinging if he’s not in the reckoning anymore.
He’s fit, refreshed and has a Lions campaign to spearhead.
HANDRE POLLARD (BULLS)
South African rugby in general actually doesn’t know yet what to expect from the Bulls pivot.
Pollard has always been seen as a bit of a prodigy given that he made his Test debut at 20 and almost guided the Boks to a World Cup final in 2018.
He spent the whole of 2016 on the sidelines and didn’t exactly have an injury-free season in 2017.
Still, the Boks felt the need to include him whenever they could last year and Pollard continued to show glimpses of class along with poorer moments.
It’s those moments of magic that keeps many hoping he’s a messiah.
Under the astute coaching of John Michell – and the prospect of better fitness – Pollard needs to show consistency now.
CURWIN BOSCH (SHARKS)
In an ideal world, the gifted Sharks playmaker would be one of the players included in the “youngsters to watch” list.
However, Bosch’s 2017 was so high-profile that people seem to forget he’s still only 20.
He lit up Super Rugby with his composure and versatility and gained a Springbok cap.
But then opponents started to watch him more closely and kept him at bay better.
As a result, his lack of size and some weak defence suddenly have some doubting his suitability as a future Bok star.
That might be considered a bit melodramatic given how young he still is though Bosch definitely needs to show further improvement.
DAMIAN DE ALLENDE (STORMERS)
The midfielder is a divisive figure in local rugby.
Coaches back him but some fans and commentators aren’t exactly sure why.
Regardless of De Allende’s potential, he desperately needs to start showing that he has the necessary creativity to complement his imposing frame.
For a big man, his tackling also still remains suspect, especially given that he’s defending in a very busy channel.
To add to the weight of his task, De Allende is now undoubtedly the senior man in the Stormers’ group of young centres.
The Capetonians will hope he responds positively to that responsibility.
KWAGGA SMITH (LIONS)
In contrast to De Allende, the Blitzboks and Lions star is a darling of the rugby public.
They love the diminutive but dynamic flanker, whose skill level is so high that it probably compensates fully for his lack of size.
Smith competes in a very competitive position and given his size and South African rugby’s preference for bigger players.
But there’s an expectation that he’ll be handed a bigger role to play in 2018 given that he’s now used to the demands of fifteens.
That is a mouthwatering prospect.