Earlier this week, Stormers coach John Dobson named a 47-man strong squad that will be tasked with defending the honour of the Western Province during the Super Rugby Unlocked campaign that kicks off on Saturday afternoon. The side will be led by World Cup winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, an Eastern Cape-born player himself, who will be playing alongside other established stars from the province such as Springbok Scara Ntubeni and Sergeal Pietersen. But they wont be the only Eastern Cape-born players in the squad, with Dobson naming an additional four youngsters who also hail from the province, in a fine split of two from the Border region and two from the Eastern Province. Get to know more about them below.
4. Leon Lyons:
The East London-born loosehead prop already boasts senior rugby experience, having been loaned back to his hometown team the Border Bulldogs for the Currie Cup First Division in 2018. He has since progressed swiftly through the Western Province ranks, with his performances being rewarded with a place in the 2018 SA U20 squad that claimed a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in France. A feat made more impressive by the fact that, he is the only member of this list that did not feature for SA Schools. The Selborne College product then found himself as part of the Stormers initial Super Rugby plans for the curtailed version of the competition. The 22-year-old has since retained his place in the squad, albeit it being for the local version of the tournament. He will now be fighting it out with the likes of Springbok Steven Kitshoff and another highly rated emerging prospect in Kwenzo Blose, for that number one jersey if he he is to make his debut in the competition. Alternatively, he could make his bow in the Currie Cup version of the tournament, where he would look to leave a lasting impression on both the coaching staff and Stormers supporters alike.
3. Sazi Sandi:
The Grahamstown- native earns a place in the Stormers squad on the back of some solid performances for Maties in the Varsity Cup. Another one of the 2018 Junior World Championships squad, Sandi’s scrumming ability has come in for some high praise during the varsity competition and would’ve subsequently also caught the eye of John Dobson. Now the former SA Schools tighthead prop will be hoping to battle it out with the likes of Springbok Marcel Marlherbe and Neethling Fouche for a Super Rugby debut. A senior debut could likely materialize in the Currie Cup leg of the tournament for him though, with Malherbe likely to be away with the Springboks for the Rugby Championships in Australia. His departure is then expected to inch the former St. Andrews College captain closer to the matchday squad.
2. Sihle Njezula:
The Grey P.E product rounds up the trio of 2018 u20 Junior World Cup bronze medalists. The powerfully built winger has been in and around the fringes of the Stormers/Western Province senior sides for quite some time now, and will no doubt be looking to make his mark during these two forthcoming tournaments. The departure of Dillyn Leyds, coupled with the injuries to both current Super Rugby wingers Seabelo Senatla and fellow Grey old boy Sergeal Pietersen ahead of the Springbok Green vs Gold showdown, could’ve no doubt, boosted the 22-year-old’s chances for senior rugby involvement. It would now appear that he has a new competitor for those outside back spots, however, with the inclusion of Tristan Leyds in the Superheroes’ Day ahead of him. Should the former SA Schools player get his opportunity, however, he will be looking to grab it with both hands, in the hope of providing sustained competition to those ahead of him, as well as establishing himself in the senior ranks in the process.
1. Mnombo Zwelendaba:
The youngest on the list, but perhaps, also the one the spotlight has arguably shone on the most of late. Many would’ve been surprised when the Selborne College old boy was called up as a late injury replacement to the Springbok Green squad before, he himself unfortunately got injured and had to relinquish the great opportunity afforded to him, to teammate Kade Wolhuter. That call up alone highlighted the significant strides the 20-year-old centre has made, with each passing year, having been selected for the SA Schools team in 2018, before following that up as a member of the SA U20 bronze medal winning 2019 Junior World Championships side. He may have missed a chance of playing in his second Junior World Championships this year and of playing with and against the ‘big boys” last week, but the tenacious centre, will be hoping he can get his opportunity to crack into the Stormers or Western Province senior ranks at the first attempt, proving his credentials that, have ensured he has been earmarked as part of South African Rugby’s Elite Development Program since 2015. He will be competing with the likes of Rickus Pretorious amongst others for that position, which could prove to be an interesting battle with a player who has been hungry and patiently awaiting his opportunity in the 12 jersey as well. Zwelendaba does carry the utility back tag, however, as he can equally slot in at outside centre and on the wing should the coaching staff require him to do a job there.