2017 Rugby Player of the Year - Cristen van Niekerk
Criteria - Simple pick the best schoolboy rugby player of 2017
Phendulani (Pepsi) Buthelezi
Phendulani (Pepsi) Buthelezi is an outstanding leader who possesses incredible speed and physicality. His jumping ability in the line-outs makes him a multi-talented asset to any team. He is a complete player who can play both tight and loose. In space, he is one of the most dangerous loose forwards with the ball in hand in SA as he possesses extreme pace.
An extremely multi-talented individual who fits the mould of the modern-day loose forward. Highly skilled and extremely athletic.
At 1.88m and 95kg, this dynamic loose forward has been a member of the Sharks Craven Week team for the past 2 years as well as a member of the SA U18 Sevens side and is a massively exciting prospect. Pepsi was also selected, after an impressive 2017 Craven Week as a member of the SA Schools Team who faced England Wales and France in the u/19 International tournament hosted by SARU every year. Pepsi will join the Sharks in 2018.
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.
Cristen Van Niekerk
From being told that he will not play rugby in 2017 due to a back injury and not being able to do any training for the first three months of 2017 to become one of the standout players for the SA Schools Team during the u/19 International Series, Kwaggas’s nomination is no surprise.
As a highly rated #7 flank for the Monnas Witbulle in 2016 Kwagga was asked to “help out” in the 2016 Lions Craven Week team as a lock but was considered too “short” at 1.92m to be selected for the SA Schools Team. His work rate and physicality during the 2017 Craven Week made his omission unthinkable and his hard work was rewarded with his selection for the u/18 SA Schools Team.
Kwagga’s philosophy of hard work will get rewarded is also the way that he plays the game of rugby unforgiving and hard.
Henco Martins enjoys playing number 8 from where he can showcase his tremendous pace and agility. He has scored 17 tries for his school during the past season and has saved quite a few tries with his cover defence. He doesn’t shy away from physical contact and is a valuable asset for any team in the lineouts where he contests extremely well, using his pace, height and explosive jumping.
Henco’s season started with a bang scoring 3 hattricks in the first four matches of the season for Paarl Gimnasium. In their 1st match of the season Henco scored his first hattrick against Stellenberg and followed that up with hattricks against EG Jansen and Garsfontein at the Noord/Suid Tournament held at Waterkloof.
Henco achieved what most schoolboy rugby players never dare dreaming of. He represented South Africa at the International Windhoek 7’s Tournament scoring 2 tries in their victories against Zambia, SA Allstars and Namibia. After being selected for the Western Province u/18 Craven Week Team Henco was selected for the SA Schools team that played in the u/19 International Series against Wales, France and England. Henco Martins a name 2017 will remember.
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.
Mark Snyman, Helpmekaar 1XV captain, who represented the Golden Lions for the past 3 years with distinction, victorious at the 2015 Grant Khomo week and 2017 Craven Week. Selected for the 2016 SA Schools A and 2017 SA Schools team.
Instrumental in putting Helpies on the schoolboy rugby map as a sustainable top 10 contenders. Mark led Helpies to victory in the Virseker Beker (previously Beeld Trophy) from grade 8 to matric leading from the front using his form on the field to encourage and lead his teammates.
An open-side flanker without equal, and his ball-carrying abilities, as a result of his excellent power and speed, resulted in a reputation feared among opposition teams. In 2017 Mark perfected the ability to turnover possession whenever required from the game plan.
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.
The first a lot of people took notice of Francke Horn was during the 2016 Academy Week when he stood that much out during the Academy Week that he was selected for the SA Schools “A” Team for the u/19 International Series something not many boys achieved while playing at the Academy Week.
Francke’s is the complete modern day rugby player possessing of vision, exceptional skills with the ball in hand and is a brilliant link between the forwards and backs. Playing the modern 8th Man game but with added aggressive defence. His leadership qualities saw him appointed as Boishaai’s 1stXV captain for 2017 a role he is used to from his primary school days.
An unfortunate virus infection halted his season just before the 2017 Craven Week but it did not stop him from scoring 17 tries in 16 matches for Boishaai’s 1stXV. A sure pick for the SA Schools side for 2017 and favourite to be appointed as captain too.
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.