2017 Ruggas Backline Player of the Year
Abner van Reenen
Criteria - Simple pick the best schoolboy backline player of 2017
Muller du Plessis
Muller du Plessis is the captain of Paarl Gimnasium’s 1st XV and enjoys the respect of his teammates and coaches. Muller has had some misfortune this season due to some injury niggles but he was during this year’s during Craven Week at his best and was again selected for the SA Schools Team which played in the International u/19 Series.
He prefers fullback but has represented SA Schools in 2016 as well as 2017 on the wing. Muller used his blistering pace to score 2 brilliant tries against England in this year’s match against England.
Muller du Plessis is an extremely skilful rugby player. He has loads of pace and is very exciting with the ball in hand. He joins his backline frequently on the attack. It is however on counter attack where he is at his most dangerous. He doesn’t shy away from his defensive responsibilities either.
The Helpmekaar 1stXV was this year blessed having some excellent talent representing them. David Cary is one of these boys who grabbed the attention of all schoolboy rugby supporters enjoying some special moments of him on field.
David Cary is well known for his ability to make something happen out of nothing on the rugby field. Being able to play both Wing and Fullback, he has the speed to run into open spaces and the footwork to dance past defenders. Being safe under the high ball, opponents always need to be wary when David has the ball because he has the uncanny ability to score from anywhere on the field.
However, probably the most outstanding feature of this two times Craven Week player and SARU high-performance squad member is his passion for the game. David plays with joy, flair and full commitment, making him a valuable asset to any team and an extremely tough opponent.
Abner van Reenen
Abner van Reenen was one of the stars for Garsfontein Hoërskool during 2016 and also represented the/18 Bulls team at the Craven Week in the same year. One of the most exciting players with the ball in hand and created tries from hopeless situations on several occasions. He will however also be remembered for his ill-discipline with the “highlight” being red-carded during the VirSeker Macro Schools finals almost costing Garsfontein the championship.
In 2017 Abner transferred to Paarl Boishaai for his matric year signing an after-school agreement with the Western Province. He started as the 1stXV first choice at fullback but when the Boishaai flyhalf, Boeta Chamberlain got injured early in the season Abner moved to flyhalf performing as if he played flyhalf all along.
Abner scored an impressive 180 points which included 15 brilliant tries. At Boishaai he developed into a disciplined and still superstar of schoolboy rugby.
Ruhan Viviers has represented Helpmekaar in the 5 years that he attend High School, as part of the winning team in the Verseker Trophy competition. During this time Helpmekaar only lost 9 games. Ruhan has played all positions in the backline except #10 proving his diversity as a player. His preferred position is scrumhalf.
During the last two years, he was the most capped player of Helpies First XV. Apart from his bullet pass, accurate left and right foot box kicks, hard-hitting tackles, he has the skills on the ground that will challenge most loose forwards.
He has represented the Golden Lions for three consecutive years. At the U/16 level at the Noordvaal Valke week and then U/18 (’16,’17) as part of the Golden Lions Academic Team. To summarized, as someone commented on his nomination: “One of Best Scrumhalf in the country, tough, fast and clever”
Aphelele is a multi-talented player. He can kick, run and tackle. He’s got everything you need as a fullback in 2016 and star flyhalf in 2017 – good hands, vision, timing and work rate. He’s put in the hard work during pre-season in terms of all-around improvement, showing a lot of the discipline and reaped the fruits in a spectacular 2017 season.
The direct translation for Aphelele Fassi in English must be glue. He was the glue that kept the whole Dale College 1stXV team together. During 2017 Aphelele scored points at critical stages for Dale College to pull off some last minute victories
Aphalele represented Border at the u/16 Grant Khomo week in 2014 as well as the u/18 Craven Week in 2016. Aphelele who received a Sharks Academy bursary already in 2016 will quite comfortably make the step up to the Sharks Academy and will be one of their star players in 2018.His future is in his own hands.
The star inside centre of Grey College needed no introduction in 2017. He already represented Grey College’s 1st XV, Free State u/18 Craven Week side, SA Schools side as well as the SA u/18 sevens team during 2016. All of these achievements he also repeated in 2017. During 2017 he also captained Grey College 1stXV, Free State u/18 Craven Week team as well as the SA u/18 Sevens side.
This hard running big centre 190cm tall and weighs 100 kilograms kept opposition defence channels very busy and created space for his teammates to run into or score brilliant tries himself. Although being a big boy he was surprisingly quick on his feet and was seldom beaten by attacking players on defence. During the season he also stepped up as a reliable goal kicker for Grey College when needed.
Rikus Pretorius, one of the brightest stars to come out of the current crop of school players, has also reportedly agreed to move to Cape Town to represent the Western Province next year.
Big was most people's surprise when Tinus Combrinck’s name was not on the team sheet of the u/18 SA Schools side when announced. Often flyhalves are seen as the general of a team, giving direction and managing the gameplan but Tinus took this role onto himself in the Monnas 1stXV as well as the 2017 Lions Craven Week team.
He was the head tactician who decided when to play back to his forwards, going to his backs ior making one of several sniping breaks. He mastered the art to decide when it was best to pass the ball immediately or first get the attention of the defenders before he passed one of his long passes to the awaiting backline.
Tinus was the guy on the field that brought calmness to the other players, everybody certain of his contribution. What set Tinus apart from other scrumhalves is his box licking abilities as well as his sniping breaks which resulted in 8 tries in the 2017 season.
Qamani Kota has been the go-to man in the Welkom Gim team in 2017, he was the playmaker that directed their attack easily moving from fullback to other positions in their backline causing havoc whenever he touched the ball. Qamani has a great vision and attacks open spaces with a very good kicking game option. His defence at the last line is rock solid and has blistering pace off the mark.
He was the star in the Tsepha Trading Griffons Team at the u/18 Craven Week this year. He scored the 4th most points at the Craven Week (52) which included an astonishing 5 tries, the 3rd most scored by an individual player. Andrew again the playmaker in a Griffons team that only lost 1 game during the Craven Week.
After his performance at the u/18 Craven Week, it was no surprise when Qamani was selected for the SA Schools side to play in the u/19 International Series and he also played a vital role in the Bokkies efforts. He played in all three fixtures and added 2 conversions and a penalty.
David Coetzer is a talented flyhalf from Selborne College and often compared with ex-Springbok Brent Russell. Similarities of posture and physique are often cited as the reason but it does not stop there. David is extremely fast off the line and has a trained eye for spotting gaps in the opposition’s defensive structures. David will either exploit the gaps himself with a turn of speed or with soft hands puts his
David will either exploit the gaps himself with a turn of speed or with soft hands put his teammates in gaps to score the tries. Defensively Davids does not hide from defending and made several trie saving tackles during the season of 2017. David is also the preferred goal kicker for his school and province.
David was selected to represent Border at the u/18 Craven Week held at St Stithians this year. He started at flyhalf in all three matches scoring 4 conversions and 1 penalty. Playing in a struggling Border team that could not win one game during the Craven Week David was not selected for the SA Schools Team and one could only speculate what his contribution would have been to a struggling SA Schools Team if he was selected.
Johan Mulder, Affies’ Witbulle scrum-half represented the Blue Bulls at u/12, u/13 and u/16 Grant Khomo. In 2017 Johan was probably one of the most influential players in the Witbulle team.He has the ability to turnover possession and probably turned over more possession than the loosies. His decision making is excellent and with his pinpoint passes and quick clearing he can up the tempo of the game and give his team momentum and quick ball on the front foot.
His season has sadly ended when he broke his leg whilst winning a loose ball and was cleaned with his foot pinned under a player. He missed out on Craven Week and the rest of the season.
He earned the respect of team mates, opposition and spectators with his positive never give up attitude, fearless game he played and pure “Affie guts” he showed. He is contracted with the Blue Bulls for 2018. South African schoolboy rugby was robbed of one of its brightest stars in 2017.
Cameron Hufke has without a doubt been one of the most explosive, elusive and devastating schoolboy rugby players these past two years. He has been a massive player for Noord-Kaap at school and Griquas at Craven Week levels, since 2015 when he started playing on First team level.
As teams started marking Hufke, he showed his versatility as he created more and more opportunities for players around him. This was evident when the two Kimberley sides met again in the KOVSIE league semi-finals and he didn’t score but played an integral part in his team’s 48-39 victory and kicked five conversions and one penalty to be named as the man of the match.
Cameron Hufke is definitely one of our most talented and exciting young players and showed this during the 2017 season by helping Noord-Kaap to a very successful season. He also, for a third year in a row, ended as the top try scorer and overall point scorer for his Noord-Kaap team. He should certainly be recognized as one of the top performers of the 2017 schoolboy rugby season.
Matt has represented the St Andrew’s College 1st XV on 43 occasions. In this time he has scored a staggering 45 tries including the all-time record of 29 tries in a season in 2017. He also kicked for goal when required and has managed to accumulate a total of 326 points over the course of his time playing for College. It is clear that Matt is an outstanding rugby player.
He has a unique gift and in his quiet unassuming way, he has gone about his business of playing rugby without seeking accolades or praise for himself. He has a unrivalled ability on the rugby field and his coaches have described him as “one of the most gifted rugby players that they have ever coached and a delight to watch”.
Unfortunately, he was not eligible to play for Eastern Province at Craven Week this year but he was identified by SA Rugby as one of the leading schoolboy talents in the country.
As the only u/17 player to be nominated as backline player of the year, Ross Braude scrumhalf of Grey College was seldom mentioned when discussions took place during the previews of the u/18 Craven Week but if you ask someone in Bloemfontein who Ross Cronje is, they will give you a long review in what they see as the next BIG THING on the scrumhalf front.
Ross is a “small” scrumhalf in modern terms, weighing 70kgs and 160cm’s tall. His biggest asset is the sniping break from scrums and mauls with his effective box kicks coming a close second. Ross level of play always creates space for his backs as the defensive structure of the opponents first needs to concentrate on him before they are able to shift their attention to his backs when he passes. And when he passes the ball it is a very quick, accurate pass to his backline with distance, not a problem.
Ross Braude in 2018 will be on everybody's lips and his name should be on the team sheet when the SA Schools Team is announced.