These guys are the heat

2008-06-20 16:32

London - With the Six Nations done-and-dusted, and the Super 14 just hitting its straps, SA Sport's Andy Colquhoun looks ahead into the rugby year and predicts the men that will make an impact on the field. Look out for these exceptional talents, coming soon to a rugby field near you.

Name: Kurtley Beale
Position: Flyhalf
Country: Australia
The slender 19-year-old has been compared to the great Mark Ella and not just because he is a talented Aboriginal playing flyhalf in rugby. Beale is prodigiously gifted with terrific speed, a sidestep and imagination. His graduation to the senior ranks was one of the most eagerly awaited in Australian rugby for many seasons and although Berrick Barnes and Quade Cooper may have a say, Beale is the one marked out to be the long-term successor to Stephen Larkham. He has given himself only until the end of 2009 to secure the Wallaby No 10 jersey however - if it doesn't happen the Waratah is likely to head to league where he is equally sought after.

Name: Andries Bekker
Position: Lock
Country:South Africa
The tallest man in Southern Hemisphere rugby (2.08m) had a glimpse of Springbok colours in 2006 when he was called into Jake White?s Tri-Nations training squad. He didn't progress any further and was then hit by injury but has come roaring out of the blocks in 2008. The Stormers' lighthouse looks a natural successor to France-based Victor Matfield as the next South African to terrorise opposition lineouts and possesses a similar athleticism and range of skills. The 24-year-old played for Peter de Villiers' Under-21s in 2004 and it would be a major surprise if he were to miss out on Springbok colours in 2008.

Name: Mike Blair
Position: Scrumhalf
Country: Scotland
Maybe it's the cold and wet conditions in which Scottish players have to spend their lives but the country never fails to field a talented scrumhalf and the Edinburgh No 9 is no exception. Despite his country's woeful Six Nations, Blair?s faultless technique, eye for an opportunity and leadership made him his country's outstanding performer - along with lock Nathan Hines - and a cert to travel to SA in 2009 with the British and Irish Lions. The 26-year-old has close to 50 caps and was elevated to the captaincy in 2008 to finally edge him firmly ahead of long-term rival Chris Cusiter.

Name: Stephen Brett
Position: Flyhalf/inside centre
Country: New Zealand
The 22-year-old Dan Carter play-alike has followed the same route as the man three years his senior through Christchurch Boys? High School and age group teams into the Crusaders. He has near identical running, handling and kicking skills and is learning his trade at No 12, outside the master in the way that Carter was once eased into the top flight next to Andrew Mehrtens. He was top scorer for both the Crusaders and Canterbury in 2007, winning junior All Black honours and, whenever Carter heads overseas, he'll be involved in a dogfight with Nick Evans for the All Black No 10 jersey.

Name: Danny Cipriani
Position: Flyhalf
Country: England
One match was enough to consign Jonny Wilkinson to the dustbin of history (for the moment at least). Twenty-year-old Wasps flyhalf Cipriani turned in a bravura performance at fl yhalf against Ireland in the place of the dropped Wilkinson and his distribution and generalship revitalised a moribund England backline and earned rave reviews for the new No 10. A nightclub indiscretion had seen him lose the chance to make his starting debut as a fullback against Scotland the week before but his arrival was merely delayed. The former England Under-19 star is quick and adventurous and if his temperament matches his talent he could be an England fixture for years to come.

Name: Alun-Wyn Jones
Position: Lock
Country: Wales
The 22-year-old lock earned his second Six Nations Grand Slam this year - the first had come in 2005 as part of the Welsh Under-21 team. He is not the tallest lock in the world - 1.96m and 108kg - but is in the thoroughly modern mould with excellent handling skills, speed and power. He made his test debut as a blindside flank in Argentina when he was just 20 in a meteoric career that also saw him named as the best newcomer in Welsh club rugby. He has formed a formidable partnership with the more experienced Ian Gough and as a smart young man - he is studying force a law degree - he is unlikely to be easily distracted.

Name: Sergio Parisse
Position: No 8
Country: Italy
The Stade Francais player rose magnificently to the challenge after being made Italy's captain for the Six Nations. His power and positional play were outstanding as the 24-year-old led from the front an Italian team that did well to keep its head above water, considering their slim resources at halfback. The well-built Parisse (1.96m 110kg) won lineout ball, drove strongly from the base of the scrum, tackled manfully and slowed down opposition ball at the breakdown and looks set to be one of the leading personalities in European rugby for years to come.

Name: David Pocock
Position: Flanker
Country: Australia
The fair-haired pocket battleship became Super 14's youngest player when he made his debut a handful of days after his 18th birthday in 2006. Nothing that has happened since has deflected from the belief that he?ll one day succeed George Smith as a permanent fixture on the side of the Wallaby scrum. Pocock arrived in Australia from strife-torn Zimbabwe at the age of 14 in 2002 and quickly made his mark. He toured Europe with Australian Schoolboys in 2005 and was a member of the under-19 team that won the IRB World Championship in Dubai in 2006. At 101kg and 1.81m he is low-slung and powerful with a cool temperament way beyond his years.

Name: Dmitri Szarzewski
Position: Hooker
Country: France
Burst onto the scene in 2004 when he made his test debut but former coach Bernard Laporte's love affair with Raphael Ibanez and new coach Marc Lievremont's fondness for experimentation have denied him the starts he probably has deserved. He is short (1.80) but immensely powerful (102kg) and speedy, making him one of the best ball-running forwards in Europe. Was one of France?s outstanding players in the 2007 Six Nation - starting four out of five matches - when his mobility as well as outstanding lineout throwing thrust the Stade Francais man to the forefront of France?s title challenge.

Name: Mose Tuiali'i
Position: No 8
Country: New Zealand
All Black incumbent Rodney So'oialo will be looking over his shoulder at the explosive shape of Tuiali'i coming up on the rails this year. He has appeared for the All Blacks in the last three seasons as a bit-part player but the 27-year-old's linking skills have seen him likened to Zinzan Brooke and he?ll be earning rave notices in the Cantabrians crusade for a seventh Super Rugby title to crank up the pressure. He was their Player of theYear in 2007 and is a cert to add to his nine test caps and the try he scored with his first touch in test rugby against Argentina in 2005.

* Andy Colquhoun is the former editor of Rugby World SA

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