Super Rugby: 10 Most Promising Players of 2012
As is the case every post-World Cup year, 2012 has seen a clean-out of many veterans from their Super Rugby franchises and has opened the door for a handful of young stars of tomorrow to ply their trade.
This time around though, it seems as though this young talent is exceptional and there have been plenty of newcomers and youngsters who show they could be the future of the game.
Many ranked amongst the top players in the competition, making it scary to think how good some of these men will be as they continue to develop and gain more experience at this level.
This list profiles ten of the very best of these players. By no means are these the only ones to impress, but merely look to be the ten with the most promise of the up-and-comers in this years competition.
10. Julian Savea
Julian Savea was one of the most dangerous attacking weapons of this year's competition, possessing a combination of size, speed and strength that made him hard to bring down.
He was a much-improved player on the Julian Savea of 2011, proving much more comfortable under the high ball and more reliable in his decision making.
He may still be a work in progress, but has shown enough to make plain to see he could be a very good player for a long time.
9. Beauden Barrett
Another Hurricane, Beauden Barrett finally burst onto the Super Rugby scene after some impressive showings for Taranaki in the past two years' ITM Cups.
Barrett has shown himself to have an exceptional boot, whilst also being a very dangerous runner. And not only does he possess these skills, he knows when to use them—so that when he does decide to run, he normally makes breaks the line.
Flyhalf is a position that players tend to mature in around their mid-to-late 20s. If Barrett is playing this well at just 21, he could very well be a world-class player. He will fight with the likes of Aaron Cruden, Tom Taylor, Colin Slade and Gareth Anscombe over the coming years to win the right to be Daniel Carter's replacement when the old master decides to finally move on.
8. Sam Cane
It seems New Zealand have finally found a player to fill the boots of Richie McCaw in 20-year-old Sam Cane.
He has shown himself to be a player in the mould of a younger McCaw, strong at the breakdown and an excellent link man in the backline. His work rate is very high, particularly on defence, showing himself to be a good tackler.
There is talk that McCaw may move to the blindside flank in order to accommodate Cane in the All Blacks team. While McCaw isn't the player he used to be, he is still one of the best in the business and speaks volumes for the prospects of Sam Cane.
7. Siya Kolisi
It's hard to believe Siya Kolisi is only 21. Very few players bring the physicality to play at this level at such a young age, but even fewer bring it to the extent that it becomes a trademark of their game.
But that has been the case with Kolisi, a player possessing tremendous strength and a high work rate to boot.
There is little not to like about him. Many were surprised when he was left out of the Springboks side to play England in the June tests. But his time will come, and if he keeps up his current form it will come sooner rather than later.
6. Johan Goosen
Of all the young flyhalfs coming through, it was Goosen who perhaps looked the best standing right through until his season was ended by injury mid-season.
He has an excellent boot, capable of kicking accurately both for field position and at goal. To go with this, he has shown himself a good operator of a backline and a handy runner.
Had he not sustained a shoulder injury in round nine, he may very well have gone on to represent his country in the June tests. But this surely has only delayed the inevitable: This kid has class written all over him.
5. Brodie Retallick
He isn't the flashiest player around, but he sure adds a lot to his team. Brodie Retallick is a hard-working lock who burst onto the scene and was a standout in the New Zealand Conference-winning Chiefs.
This boy hits rucks, and he hits a lot of them. His lineout work is also outstanding and has potential to be New Zealand's best lineout lock for a long time.
In the June tests against Ireland, he and Sam Whitelock formed the All Blacks' locking duo. With both men still in their early 20s, this is a pair who will lock the All Blacks' scrum for many years.
4. Eben Etzebeth
If Brodie Retallick is going to be the next great New Zealand lock, Eben Etzebeth has potential to be an even greater South African lock. His physicality is simply astonishing, at just 20 proving himself to be arguably the most physical player in the competition.
And this will only get better as he progresses in his career and continues to grow.
He was rewarded with a Springbok jersey, starting each of the three June tests. Many have compared him to Bakkies Botha, and it's by no means a stretch to do this. In fact in 10 years' time, it could be Etzebeth being talked about as the superior of the two.
3. Marcel Coetzee
Another 21-year-old South African looseforward, Marcel Coetzee has proven himself to be a must-have in a Sharks looseforward trio containing three recognised top players in Keegan Daniel, Ryan Kankowski and Willem Alberts.
He is a powerful runner, a good link man and has great ball skills. His work rate is good too, on both attack and defence, showing himself to be prominent.
In June he displaced Heinrich Brussouw from the Springbok team. This, if nothing else, shows the class of this man and the huge future in store for him.
2. Michael Hooper
There were many openside flankers to impress in 2012, but no one looked to show more promise than the Brumbies' Michael Hooper.
Hooper has the complete package: A high tackle count, tremendous ability at the breakdown and the skill and instinct to run as a link man in the backline.
Whether or not he becomes an international superstar will depend on how the Wallabies look to play him with David Pocock on the scene. It is clear Pocock remains the No. 1 choice, forcing Hooper to move to play for the Waratahs in 2013, upon the announcement that Pocock has signed with the Brumbies.
But if they are smart, they will find a place for him and make sure that he gets his chance on the world's biggest stage. He's too good to ignore.
1. TJ Perenara
TJ Perenara was simply outstanding for the Hurricanes in 2012. He first played first-class rugby as a schoolboy two years ago after captaining the New Zealand Secondary Schools team that year. Since then he has had big expectations on him.
Now that he has finally made his foray into Super Rugby, it can be said that Perenara is indeed the real deal.
He has a fast pass, a reasonable kick and is a dangerous runner. But what makes him so good is the way he does all of this, taking good options on a regular basis and showing himself to be a very mature player for his age.
An injury saw to it that he didn't feature in the last three rounds of the competition, but he had made his mark by then. Don't be surprised to see this kid filling the All Blacks' No. 9 jersey sooner rather than later—he has all the goods, and then some.