Super Rugby

SA Super Rugby franchises' best buys for when action resumes

Warrick Gelant and Manie Libbok both left the Bulls. (Gallo Images)
Warrick Gelant and Manie Libbok both left the Bulls. (Gallo Images)
  • Despite the prevailing gloomy economic outlook, local Super Rugby franchise's still managed to get some business done for the resumption of competitive play.
  • With the exception of the free-spending Bulls, the teams focused on consolidation and stability.
  • The Stormers notably made up for a lack of quantity with one quality buy, while the Lions made a signing that screams hidden gem like in the heyday of Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin.

Given the constrained economic environment, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it's a minor miracle that South Africa's Super Rugby franchises have still managed to do some transfer business.

With the exception of the Bulls, who have gone on a pretty spectacular shopping spree to support Jake White's revival at Loftus, most of the local sides either focused on recruiting young talent or consolidating their existing player base.

That doesn't mean though that there wasn't some decent business done.

Here are each franchise's best buy.

BULLS: Sintu Manjezi and Walt Steenkamp

Yes, this represents two buys, but one should consider the two former Cheetahs stars a package deal.

There can be no denying that proven stars in Duane Vermeulen, Arno Botha, Gio Aplon and Marcel van der Merwe were the Bulls' more eye-catching acquisitions.

Yet if there's a piece of business that exemplifies White's commitment to a sustainable future, it's convincing Manjezi and Steenkamp to move to Pretoria.

The game has evolved to a point where one can't really make Bakkies Botha-Victor Matfield comparisons as locks are now all required to be truly versatile, though the two Free State newbies do exhibit that vibe to an extent.

Manjezi is an imposing, even burly jumper with a nimble skillset, while Steenkamp is a towering presence with great organisational skills.

Crucially, the two are well-known to each other having played together in Bloemfontein.

It gives White a head start - he doesn't have to first make them used to each other, merely expose them to his system.

LIONS: Divan Rossouw

The men from Ellis Park were left battered and bruised by May's opt-out transfer window, losing key talents in Malcolm Marx, Tyrone Green and Ruan Vermaak.

While the focus has understandably been on stability and continuity, the Lions did make two moves, notably convincing Rossouw to cross the Jukskei river from Loftus.

The 24-year-old from Windhoek is ostensibly not as gifted as Green, but there's sense that his move is like a buy in Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin's heyday.

Rossouw is a dependable and versatile backline option, capable of fitting in at fullback, wing and even centre.

He had his moments in Pretoria, finishing well at times and being solid under the high ball.

However, Rossouw seldom was considered a first-choice player and could prove his worth by being afforded more game-time.

SHARKS: Manie Libbok

There's a temptation to argue that Blizboks legend Werner Kok - secured during the Durbanites' extensive grocery shopping at the end of last year, but only available now - could be the shrewdest buy at King's Park as he fills the more immediate need of backup in midfield after Andre Esterhuizen's departure.

That said, Libbok comes from the Bulls with an immense pedigree at junior level.

He was his new teammate Curwin Bosch's understudy for the Junior Springboks in 2017 and started to make waves in the Currie Cup, notably delivering a superb performance in 2018's semifinal against Western Province at Newlands, a game that went into extra time.

Nimble, Libbok had to play in Handre Pollard's shadow before, perhaps a bit inexplicably, having to also sit behind veteran Morne Steyn in the pecking order.

The flyhalf cum fullback has an incisive eye for creating space and is a brilliant kicker from the tee.

He'll have to work his way into the Sharks' starting XV, but Bosch won't mind having a man of his talents keeping him on his toes.

STORMERS: Warrick Gelant

Finances at Newlands are in a desperate state and when you have to keep men like Pieter-Steph du Toit in the books, you won't have a lot of funds going around.

What they lacked in quantity, they made up in quality by attracting an upcoming Springbok in Gelant.

The potential is undeniable though there's a distinct sense that the 25-year-old fullback now needs to start delivering consistently, especially given his billing as yet another star attraction in the Stormers line-up.

His presence also adds a sense of comfort to Damian Willemse, who can now truly focus on making the No 10 jersey his own and in tandem, the duo represents the cornerstone of the Capetonians attacking hopes.

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