With SA derbies on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship menu in round 15, here are five South Africans enjoying a breakout 2022-23 campaign.
Stravino Jacobs (Vodacom Bulls)
The stocky 22-year-old has had to make the most of limited playing time this season, but Jacbos has run with his opportunities whenever Springbok speedsters Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse have been pulled back from the Vodacom URC front lines. Nicknamed ‘Rocket Man’ from his school days in the Western Cape, Jacobs has blasted off whenever called up, scoring six tries in eight matches across all competitions to emerge as a formidable strike-runner. He is just as potent under the high ball, famously high-pointing a cross-kick to crash over for a spectacular try against Scarlets in Llanelli.
Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers)
The DHL Stormers’ teenage sensation has taken to Vodacom URC like a seasoned pro, bursting onto the scene this season as an exciting prospect at outside centre and wing. Having capped off a dream 2022 by touring the UK and Ireland with the South Africa ‘A’ team in November, the 19-year-old has featured prominently for the defending champions, scoring four tries in 10 starts in the first 14 rounds of the competition after debuting in this season’s league opener.
Sanele Nohamba (Emirates Lions)
A move to the Highveld from the Cell C Sharks has clicked with the feisty scrumhalf, who marked his first Vodacom URC start for the Emirates Lions with a try in the away win over Ospreys in round two. It was a sign that he is starting to rediscover the sort of instinctive play that saw him earn a Springbok call-up in 2022, as he pounced on a loose ball from a scrum before sprinting clear to score. The 24-year-old played off the bench in the season opener against the Vodacom Bulls, but has since started seven matches for the Emirates Lions, including last week’s victory against touring Glasgow when he scored a try. He has also proved an asset as a back-up goalkicker.
Francke Horn (Emirates Lions)
A highly-rated schools prodigy from the rugby academy that is Paarl Boys High in the Western Cape, Horn’s career has been limited by injuries. When fit and firing, the 23-year-old is a dynamic No 8 able to unlock defences as a key member of the Emirates Lions pack. After a lengthy stint on the sidelines this season, the fit-again Emirates Lions bruiser returned to Vodacom URC action last week with a bang as The Pride bounced back to winning ways against Glasgow Warriors. Horn combined hard running, strong mauling and powerful ball carries with intuitive link-play and no-nonsense tackling, underlining a memorable performance by scooping up a loose ball inside his half for a breakaway try.
Werner Kok (Cell C Sharks)
Proving that the Vodacom URC is not only a launchpad for next-gen stars, the 30-year-old former Blitzboks star Werner Kok has used the league to compile a compelling case for the Springbok selectors to consider. Consistently producing game-breaking performances in the wide channels for the men from Durban, Kok shot out of the blocks at the start of the campaign with three tries that included a strike down the left touchline in an emphatic victory over Glasgow. He had to cool his jets during a lengthy injury-enforced lay-off, but is two games back in the saddle and ready to be unleashed in Cape Town against the DHL Stormers on Saturday.