NEW YORK, NY – With Super Rugby having kicked off already, it was time to give our readers RWU’s 2013 Southern Hemisphere players to watch. This follows in the same vein as our previous players to watch for the USA ,Canada and Europe. We are picking these player based on the year we expect from them, not what they have done in 2012.
Australia – Cadeyrn Neville (Melbourne Rebels): This guy will be a starting lock for the Wallabies by the November tours. He is incredibly raw but with Nathan Sharpe retired, and James Horwill’s injury clouded future, there is room for Neville. Neville has the potential to be the best tight lock Australia have ever produced, Eales remains the best lock and the best loose lock. Tight lock refers to guys like Bakkies Botha and Brad Thorn, the hard-men that stay close to the breakdown and not in the back-line. He will mix it up with anyone at anytime and the Aussie halfback combo will be glad to have him there to protect them. This is not hype, it is a promise about Neville.
New Zealand – Francis Saili (The Blues): Now there are young tyros that have garnered more attention. Teammate Charles Piutau looks to be a certain All Black in time and likely center partner Rene Ranger will be looked at for AB honors again, so why this kid you ask? Well with no Sonny Bill around, Richard Kahui will be in Japan, and Conrad Smith resting, the AB 13 and back-up center positions are wide open. Flashing a bit of his brilliance last season in a handful of games young Francis has proven he can play 12 or 13 with grace, guile and strength. With such a glaring need for the nation, expect Saili to be fast tracked.
South Africa – Luke Watson (Southern Kings): There is no player more divisive in South African rugby than Luke. Sometimes referred to as Puke for saying he puked on the Springbok jersey and the Afrikaans that run the SARU. Loads of people want to see his dad (Cheeky, the most divisive man in SA rugby) and his franchise The Southern Kings fail horribly. However, Watson seems to thrive in the spotlight. His performance will go a long way to determining the success of the Kings.
Argentina – Nicolas Vergallo (Southern Kings): With the Kings likely to have a pack struggling to get parity for their backs, a field general like Vergallo will be critical. In his performances for Argentina’s first team and the A side (Yagueritos), he has shown flair and an ability to marshal the backs. He will have to improve his defense and ability to control the tempo in order for the Kings to get wins.
Samoa – Ropeti Lafo (Vaiusu): You have not heard of young Mr. Lafo’s club because he still plays for a local club in Samoa. However he captained the Samoa U-20 team at the Junior World Cup and followed that with senior caps during Samoa’s November tour. He is the a-typical new age hooker. Trim, strong, mobile, makes tackles, carries well and occasionally creates turnovers. He will be in France before the year is out.
Fiji – Samisoni Viriviri (Fiji 7s): On the Fiji 7s side Joji Baleviani Raqamate is the talk of the town and is being built up as the new Serevi (talk about pressure). However, Viriviri has been key to Fiji’s success in tournaments. Raqamate is a play-maker but Viriviri is the finisher. His strike running from anywhere on the field is the yang to Raqamate’s ying. Last season, the majority of the Fiji 7s team signed 15s contract in France. You will be adding Viriviri to that list by the end of 2013.
Tonga – Steve Mafi (Leicester Tigers): Mafi is probably the best kept secret in the Aviva Premiership. He is on this list because he is not as well known as he should be. Tall, strong and mobile, he is versatile enough to cover all the back-row positions for Leicester. He not only covers them, he plays them as if each were his primary position. He never shies away from the dirty work and he is not flashy but he always does his job. He played a part in Tonga’s wins over the US and Scotland this past fall.
That’s it for now. We welcome your comments below and please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner, and respectively @Ebstide52 .
Be sure to check back for our 2013 Southern Hemisphere Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch and as always…
Stay low and keep pumping those legs.