NEW YORK, NY – With Super Rugby ready to kick off another season, it is clearly time for us to release our list of 2015 Southern Hemisphere Players to watch – just as we did for 2015 classes of USA, Canada and Europe.
A big difference to our southern hemisphere rugby coverage from last year to this year is the addition of Jamie Wall to our staff. Mr Wall has written a fantastic preview of the young players to watch during this year’s Super Rugby season. With that said, our selection for the three SANZAR nations will focus on a few not-so young players to keep an eye on. And now it is time to begin our review:
Australia – Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs): We are not sure if trouble follows Kurtley or if he just finds it. Either way, they always seem to appear side by side in the sports pages. He was on the receiving end of a ticking off and fine from the ARU after sending inappropriate texts relating to Wallaby team manager Di Patson. The scandal ended in the departure of national coach Ewen McKenzie over what he saw as a lack of support from the authorities. With his then provincial coach and the only man that seems to be able to reign him in, Micheal Chieka, now in charge of the national side can he rediscover the form that has left many rugby watchers spellbound? He will be a lock-in for the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) if he can.
New Zealand – Colin Slade (The Crusaders): After 2011, the question of who will be fourth choice fly-half for the All Blacks has been of interest to every other side in the competition. Slade was third choice in 2011, was called up for the top job when Dan Carter was injured in the pool stages, but then got injured himself in the quarter-final against Argentina. We all know what happened next – Stephen Donald kicked the crucial penalty in the final. We already know Slade has the temperament for the big kick as he was called in during the third Bledisloe match where, after missing a kick for touch, he nailed the game-winning kick. He followed that up by playing emergency wing during one of the Fall tour matches, so now he has played every position for the ABs backline, except 13. Yup, he covered 9 for the final seven minutes of the All Blacks loss to South Africa in 2014. That kind of versatility and dedication to the team must surely give him a seat on plane for RWC2015 – as long as he stays healthy and doesn’t get hurt tackling…
South Africa – Juan De Jongh (Sharks): With Jean De Villiers out for the Super Rugby season and possibly the RWC, there is a huge gap in the centers for the Springboks. It looks like Frans Steyn won’t be back in the mix and current center Jan Serforntein can play 12, so De Jongh could take his preferred 13 spot. There is a wide-open competition for the Springbok 12/13 jersey so we decided to back a guy who has played at that level to reasonable success.
Argentina – Manual Montero (Club Pucara): At 6’4, and 220lbs, you could be forgiven for thinking Montero is another massive forward in the always mighty Argentina pack. In fact, he is one of the new breed of mammoth wingers. He has been a force at club level, for the Argentinian U-20 teams, third-choice Pampas and the second-choice Jaguars, as well as the 7s side. He most recently played for the full national team in The Rugby Championship. He could have joined a European club but has just signed with the UAR to play for the Argentina Super Rugby Franchise in 2016, so he may take a short-term contract in Europe or for another Super Rugby side to tune up for the Rugby Championship and the RWC, where he will definitely make an impression.
Samoa – Henry Stowers (Wellington Lions): Stowers is a hugely talented backrower who captained the U-20 Samoa national team at last year’s Junior World Cup. The reason he is of note is that in the last couple of years, we have seen Jack Lam go from the Wellington ITM team, then the Super Rugby Hurricanes, declare for Samoa then sign a big overseas contract. Samoans would love to see the high work rate and abrasive Stowers follow in Lam’s footsteps rather than those of another success story of Steven Luatua, who went from the U-20 team, to the Auckland ITM team, the Blues and then the ABs. Stowers is good enough to possibly make the RWC side, if not expect him to move from the fringes of the Lions team into a first choice player.
Fiji – Nathan Hughes (Wasps): Hughes is a controversial selection – because he has not officially declared his allegiance to Fiji yet. He may bolt for top-tier nation like England, where he plays and will be eligible in two years. Hughes is also eligible for Samoa so he may take that route. Hughes is big enough to generate front-foot ball and move bodies at the ruck yet has the ability to put on a swerve, draw contact and offload. He has been a key member of the Wasps side that is competing for a top-four finish in the Aviva premiership and made the European Champions Cup playoffs. We hope to see him representing Fiji in 2015.
Tonga – Patelisio Oneone (Apifo’ou): Young Pat played fly-half for the U-20 Tonga team that lost to Japan in the Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT) tournament final last season. He will have some tough decisions to make because Tonga does not have a 7s team on the full 7s series so he will have to use his domestic club form in Tonga to press his case for the full national side. However, Tonga have good track record moving players through their ranks and we feel Oneone will be one of those earmarked for fast progression.
Japan – Hendrik Tui (Queensland Reds): The 27-year-old, 27 test, New Zealand-born Japan international, is expected to join the Reds after he wins the Japanese league with his current club Suntory. The belief is that Tui won’t be in Queensland to make up numbers but actually press to be part of the first team. He is a destructive runner with the ability to offload in the tackle and he possesses an impressive step, so he will fit in well with the Reds high-tempo attacking philosophy.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.