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SA Players to Watch in 2022

In a sea of tremendous talent, these are 10 of the most promise-rich rising stars to watch in 2022, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

SA Rugby Players Watch

In a sea of tremendous talent, these are 10 of the most promise-rich rising stars to watch in 2022, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Zak Burger (Bulls)

Having exuded heart and skill in equal measure as Griquas’ gutsy general, Burger was rewarded with a Bulls contract last year. An intelligent tactician, a cool head amidst a storm, a constant nuisance around the fringes of the ruck and a fire-starter of a playmaker, the nuggety No.9 has slotted in seamlessly and is going to blossom behind the big Bulls pack. Lofty comparisons come with a double-edged sword element, but he’s like a young Faf de Klerk. I see big things in the 23-year-old’s future. 

Phepsi Buthelezi (Sharks)

Being a former Junior Springbok captain, who led his team to a bronze medal at the 2019 Under-20 World Championship in Argentina, comes with high expectations. History has shown that some fulfil their potential, while others buckle under the pressure of those projections. Buthelezi’s biggest upside is that his temperament matches his talent. The back-rower broke through spectacularly on the senior circuit with standout performances against the British & Irish Lions and he’s primed to kick on in 2022.

Boeta Chamberlain (Sharks)

Chamberlain started 2021 as the Sharks’ third-choice flyhalf and ended the year as the holder of the No.10 jersey. That rise was the result of Curwin Bosch going off the boil, Lionel Cronje completing his stint and Chamberlain taking his opportunities with both hands. His attacking flair allows him to maximise his vision yet as unpredictable as he can be, he has a fundamentality sound foundation. The Durban franchise need a pivot to step-up and steer the ship into the future; with that in mind, keep a keen eye on Chamberlain.

Elrigh Louw (Bulls)

As ambitious as he is athletic, the sky’s the limit for Louw. A humble, hard-working, hybrid athlete, the man who earned the nickname “The Sheriff” at the Southern Kings has rapidly developed into a top-tier loose forward at the Bulls. As a rookie among a star-studded collection of Springbok back-rowers, which until the second half of last season included Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden and Nizaam Carr along with Marcell Coetzee and Arno Botha, the 22-year-old’s being groomed for greatness and has consistently played to the level of his decorated peers. The relentless physical force is already knocking on the Springbok door and if he continues his current trajectory, he’ll likely make his Test bow this year.

David Meihuizen (Stormers)

You can teach a lot of things, but you can’t teach size. In a game filled with giants, Meihuizen stands head and shoulders above the majority of the other monsters. At 2.08m tall and 123kg, he’s a beast incarnate and, therefore, offers something unique in the overflowing talent pool of second-rowers at the Springboks’ disposal. At 24 and eligible to play for England and Scotland, the world is his oyster. The Scots tried to lure the leviathan to Edinburgh last year but his desire to become a Springbok saw him sign a contract extension with the Stormers instead. That commitment underlined his intentions and he’ll be planning to make major moves this year.   

Yaw Penxe (Sharks)

The mark of a premier predator is making the most of opportunities and Penxe’s made a name for himself doing just that. He put himself on the map with a standout showing in the Springbok Showdown in 2020. Not only did that electrifying performance give him a new lease on life, as it saw him snapped up from the sinking Southern Kings ship by the Sharks, but it also made him a player of national interest ever since. Behind Springboks Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi in the pecking order, that killer instinct will serve him well and makes the try-scoring machine a must-watch talent.

Wandisile Simelane (Lions)

Even though he’s only 23, many experts expected Simelane would’ve been a Springbok by now, such is his prodigious talent. Disciplinary issues stalled the 2018 Junior Springbok Player of the Year’s senior career out of the shoot and after he addressed those, Covid hit. Whenever he’s on the park, the Lions midfielder lights it up. He has the fastest feet of any outside centre in the country, even edging Blitzbok captain Stedman Gans, who burns it down at the Bulls. This is the year for the hot-stepper to take the next step in his career.

Janko Swanepoel (Bulls)

Swanepoel is what you call a puppy with big paws. The 22-year-old is still bulking up and yet, he’s already taking names with his insatiable hunger. It’s the driving force behind his successful switch from No.5 to No.4 at the Bulls, while his ability to cover both positions makes him that much more of a hot commodity. His intensity comes with intelligence, both in his lineout play and running lines, and he has an impressive motor that sees him get through a ton of work, especially on defence. It’s bound to be a big year for the blonde-haired prospect, and his lock partner Ruan Nortje. 

Vincent Tshituka (Lions)

Like his Lions teammate Simelane, Tshituka has long been seen as a future Springbok and will view 2022 as the year to breakthrough. The dynamic back-rower from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is renowned for running amok, which makes him the ideal link between the forwards and backs for the Lions. It’s not exactly the Springbok style, though, and while he’s a consistent game-changer, question marks remain over if he possesses the rugged physicality required to make it at Test level. He’s always a joy to watch and to see how he answers that burning question is an extra layer of intrigue.

Nama Xaba (Stormers)

Injuries have delayed the rise of the junior prodigy but he’s shown over the past two seasons that he’s the most promising ball poacher South Africa’s produced in years. His technique and timing are impeccable and he latches onto the ball like an immovable magnet. He’s revered as one of the hardest workers on match day as well as in training, an extension of his character as a born leader. A former SA Schools and UCT Ikeys captain, he led a young Western Province team against the Cheetahs in the Toyota Challenge last November, a sign that the Cape Town union sees him as a building block for the future. As a ball hawk, you won’t have to look hard to spot the 24-year-old.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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