NEW YORK , NY – In the past two weeks, we’ve taken advantage of my trip to the future by giving you all the select intel on the names to watch in Rugby 2012 in the USA and Europe. With that, it was only appropriate to give our friends in the Southern Hemisphere their comeuppance. But it wasn’t easy; the Southern Hem is far more spaced out and covered more time zones. But for you my good friends… nothing would keep yours truly from the task! So, here is my Southern Hemisphere Names To Watch In Rugby 2012:
NEW ZEALAND – Tyler Bleyendaal – Crusaders/Canterbury – With the recent successes of the last few incarnations of the 2010/2011 U-20 NZ team, there are loads of talented players to choose from. The one player a lot of people have their eyes/hopes fixed on is young T-Bley. He captained the U-20 team in 2010 and looked set to be the next in a line of great Canterbury Fly-halfs. Unfortunately, there have also been a line of good Canterbury Fly-halfs (or is it halves?) that had to go elsewhere because they failed to reach their potential. Time will tell, but I am leaning towards him having a solid Super 15 season followed by a strong ITM Cup.
SOUTH AFRICA – Elton Jantjes – Lions/Golden Lions – An apprentice of King Carlos over at the Lions so he has to be the goods. He has shown the flair that comes from his mentor. He has however also shown calm under pressure and a goal-kicking ability that far surpassing his mentor’s. He still has loads of development to be the next Bok FH but he has the talent in spades.
AUSTRALIA – Liam Gill – Queensland Reds – For those that remember the tussle for the number 7 jersey between Phil Waugh and George Smith, prepare for the sequel this time between David Pocock and Liam Gill. The boy is 19 and so good, he will blow past fellow wallaby contender Beau Robinson.
ARGENTINA – Martín Bustos Moyano – Montpellier (Fra) – At 26, he’s a little old to be considered a “soon to be” however, after a falling out with Arg RWC Santiago Phelan that lead to his non-selection for the RWC Squad. I believe both parties will come to their senses because MBM has shown at the club level that he has the talent and the class to be great.
Frank Halai – NZ – Since Jonah Lomu, the idea of playing a guy as big as an 8man on the wing has been popular. However, young Frank not only dominates on the wing in 15s, his size and speed along with solid handling make him an outright danger in 7s.
Rebecca Tavo – Australia – Having represented Aus in both flag and 15s, she is now the 7s team captain. Taken over a legend and showing that she has strong shoulders to carry the pressure, she aims to help the 7s team win the 7s world cup again and close the competitive gap against NZ and England in 15s.
Chiefs – NZ S15 – Always known for playing expansive rugby (lost 72-68 a couple of years back), they now have some fresh talent in the backs to match their unheralded grunt up front. If they can tighten up their defence, they will push to make the NZ final.
Lions – SA S15/ Currie Cup – Building on the Currie Cup victory of the Golden Lions— who make up a majority of the S15 team, they are a danger. They are gonna be young, raw and hungry. That is usually not the most successful formula but the Currie Cup hardened a lot of the young players and the boys have proven to be fearless. I expect them to be mid-table and cause some upsets and headaches for other clubs.
ALL BLACKS COACHING STAFF – Steve Hansen, Aussie McLean and Ian Foster have been given the poisoned chalice. They are now in-charge of the reigning RWC Champions (Hansen – Head Coach with McLean and Foster as assistants). They will have access to great talent and the cooperation of all the coaches at every level below them. They will also be in the eye of the storm and with a public that has no problem pushing un-liked coaches off the ledge.
Dave Rennie – Rennie is such a beloved coach that Aaron Cruden got a release from The Hurricanes so he could be back with his old coach when Rennie got promoted. As I mentioned earlier, he has bucket loads of talent to work with. If he can tighten up the defence and develop a killer instinct to his boys, I expect big things.
Henyeke Meyer – As mentioned in my previous Class of RWU 2012 article, Henyeke is the new head coach of the SA Springboks. He will have to re-build this team and get the right injection of youth and deal with a myriad of problems no other coach in Tier 1 international rugby has to deal with.
ARGENTINA – For a long time the old heads at the ARU have been against professionalism. Now with their addition into the 4N, they will have to change their tune. They will be using European based players to start but they are expected to develop their own Super Rugby teams and make those professional. If they do that right and how they will do that is what everyone will be watching.
NEW ZEALAND – The ITM Cup (forever known to Kiwis as the National Provincial Championship) needs restructuring again. It no longer has current ABs in the set-up. The yearly change to the structure, match day fees and dates of games seem insensitive to working families and appear sponsor focused. With the success of Super Rugby and the National team, it would be a shame if a storied tournament that feeds into those teams is diluted even further or eliminated altogether. The NZRU have to get this situation under control.
I hope you enjoyed the above look into the future but debate is always welcome, so feel free to opine. Next Week, we will look to debate the Six Nations and who are looking like early contenders for 2013 Lions and who are not.