This year’s Currie Cup, given the absence of the Springboks and the continued exodus of stalwarts overseas, was particularly rich in producing new heroes.
After all, various teams were forced to test their depth.
Here are five stars who really made their mark and look ready for bigger things.
TYRONE GREEN (GOLDEN LIONS)
Not only did this exciting 22-year-old fullback make the most running metres in this year’s competition, he was arguably the most potent attacker overall in the tournament.
Green ended with five tries to his name and assisted in at least half a dozen others, but the real value of his contribution lies in when he crossed the whitewash.
It was his magical, weaving runs that spearheaded the Lions’ memorable comebacks away from home at Newlands and Bloemfontein.
Clearly not worried about his small frame, Green also improved gradually as a defender.
JOSEPH DWEBA (FREE STATE CHEETAHS)
There’s a bit of a retro feel to the dreadlocked hooker.
As many others teams groom imposing, tall behemoths that look more like flankers – think Malcolm Marx, Kerron van Vuuren and Jaco Visagie – the Cheetahs have made a burly pocket rocket one of their key players.
For the past five years, Dweba has seemed like nothing more than a bit part player.
He was used on-and-off during his time as a Junior Springbok and struggled initially to dislodge a Namibian international in Torsten van Jaarsveld.
Granted more game-time, the 23-year-old has flourished.
He’s improved his line-out throwing, he’s scrummed well, carried the ball with vigour and ended as the joint leading try scorer in this year’s edition with seven dot-downs.
JEANDRE RUDOLPH (PUMAS)
A year ago, Rudolph’s career seemed to be stalling.
As the inspirational captain of Pukke, the 25-year-old had become one of the legends of the Varsity Cup and more than contributed his pound of flesh for the Leopards in the backwaters of the Currie Cup’s first division.
Then Brent Janse van Rensburg and the Pumas came knocking, an opportunity to really make a name for himself.
But Janse van Rensburg left before the Currie Cup and director of rugby, Jimmy Stonehouse, didn’t quite seem convinced of Rudolph’s worth.
Thankfully, that changed in 2019.
Rudolph played like a man possessed, proving a superb linking player as eighthman, before dominating his collisions and poaching breakdown balls with impunity when shifted to openside flank.
On this trajectory, a bigger gig looms.
SANELE NOHAMBA (SHARKS)
When Nohamba slotted his kicks like a seasoned pro in the cauldron that it Ellis Park, many were surprised.
But they shouldn’t have been.
This 20-year-old halfback had already shown way back during the 2017 Craven Week that there was a mature head on those young shoulders.
Nohamba showed enough glimpses of game-breaking skill, notably a brilliant try against the Lions.
Yet his true worth was illustrated by the fact that he does the basics well – his service is snappy, his decision-making sound and his tactical kicking promising.
Much like Herschel Jantjies, Nohamba reminds us that, in the end, it’s core skills that really count.
BENHARD JANSE VAN RENSBURG (FREE STATE CHEETAHS)
Observers were intrigued when former Sharks coach Robert du Preez lured one of his Pukke stars to Durban.
Du Preez had raved about Janse van Rensburg’s precocious talent, particularly as flyhalf.
As time went on though, the intrigue turned to snickering as the 22-year-old stumbled from one indifferent performance to the next.
Even a loan to the Southern Kings did nothing to promote his cause.
It was surprising then when the Cheetahs came calling, but coach Franco Smith seemed to have a plan.
Why not harness those playmaking skills by selecting him in a position that’s less rushed than flyhalf?
Janse van Rensburg has been a revelation at outside centre, a rampaging dictator in the midfield with varied skills that, belatedly, proves that Du Preez was right.