RAFIQ WAGIET: Bok to the future
The future of South African rugby is bright.
Of that I have little doubt after watching every match played by the Under 20 Springboks at this year's Junior World Championships in Cape Town.
The Baby Boks are now just 80 minutes away from being crowned world champions, if they beat New Zealand in the final on Friday night.
Some of Dawie Theron's players are fresh out of schoolboy rugby, but I predict after this campaign many of these young stars will run out in this year's Currie Cup competition and then make the step up to Super Rugby, like a few of their team mates already have.
Before then though they will play what will possibly be the biggest match of their young careers on Friday night, when they face the New Zealand Haka...hopefully the first of many to come.
For the past four years, the Baby Blacks have had a strangle hold on the competition - winning it since the inaugural tournament in 2008.
South Africa have had a good tournament, after recovering from an opening match defeat to Ireland. But as captain Wian Liebenberg correctly pointed out after their semi-final win over Argentina, the team had achieved nothing yet and only victory over New Zealand would earn them a place in the history books.
On paper, the Baby Boks are probably the most experienced in the competition, with quite a few having already tasted the intensity of Super Rugby.
Most notably would be the ginger haired prop, Steven Kitshoff, who has had a stand out season for the Stormers.
At only 20, he has already received much praise from Stormers forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot for his raw scrumming and technical abilities. Having watched every Stormers game this season, Kitshoff has proven to be a real weapon in their arsenal, out-scrumming all his opponents. To be honest, by next year, or maybe even by the time the Springboks embark on their end-of-year-tour to the UK, Kitshoff is most likely going to be a member of that squad. He is without a doubt a future Springbok.
If there is one player to keep an eye out for, it is Bulls centre, Jan Serfontein. I'm putting my money on this kid. I rate him highly. I'd even go as far as saying he's probably one of the best inside centres South Africa has produced in recent years. He reminds me of Jean de Villiers in a number 12 jersey, sidestepping two defenders and making a break before offloading for a try. This boy has got it all: size, pace, an eye for a gap and miserly on defence. What more do you want from a centre? Springbok rugby is also in his blood - his great-grandfather Jack Slater played for the Boks in 1928. So, Heyneke Meyer, here is your next inside centre!
Sharks centre Paul Jordaan is another talent destined to be play in the green and gold. He played wing for the Junior Boks during this tournament and was one of the standout players. He has already played Super Rugby for the Sharks and performed exceptionally well for the Durban franchise.
Western Province and Paarl Gym flyhalf Handre Pollard is another raw talent who has also stepped up and produced at this tournament. He was effectively the Baby Boks third choice for number ten after Johan Goosen and Tony Jantjies. His accuracy off the kicking tee is superb making him a real points machine. Word also has it that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has his eye on this kid. Possibly the next Morne Steyn? Province had better watch out or they could lose this talent to the Bulls.
To sum it up, the Baby Boks are not a well-oiled machine, remember they are juniors after all, but there is definitely raw talent here which needs to be nurtured. The future of Springbok rugby is looking bright and with some of these players, Heyneke Meyer could build a formidable side to take to the next world cup in England in 2015.
Rafiq Wagiet is an Eyewitness News Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @RafiqWagiet