The 22-year-old fullback was fearless in bringing his running game into his debut SuperRugby season, his counter-attacking skills often lifting an ailing Cheetahs team. Good in the air too and a strong kicker, his move from Boland has certainly paid off.
9. Paul Jordaan (Sharks)
The Sharks have had a motley record recently in terms of backline selection, but they recognised an exciting talent in centre/wing Jordaan, who was not even a member of their original squad. An explosive runner, the IRB Junior World Championship winner has the pace to threaten the best but also the ability to read the nuances of the game.
8. Tim Whitehead (Sharks)
The 24-year-old is in his third season of SuperRugby, but moved this year from the Stormers, who have considerable riches in midfield. The move has paid off for Whitehead, who has been a regular in the Sharks team and has stated his claim for future higher honours with commanding displays at centre, especially defensively. Well organised and strong.
7. Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)
Inexperienced and the youngest member of the Stormers squad, but charged with being the foundation of their scrum, a problem area in the past. The 20-year-old member of South Africa’s winning IRB Junior World Championship squad made life difficult for far more experienced tightheads and was also a test for defences with ball in hand.
6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers)
The 21-year-old filled in for the injured Schalk Burger so well that the Stormers hardly noticed the absence of the Springbok legend. A major defensive force, Kolisi gets himself around the park and has impressive strength.
5. JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls)
Lanky but fast with ball in hand and ferocious in defence, the former Stormer enjoyed a top-class season that brought him to the brink of a Springbok cap. Works well with the Bulls backline coach, former Springbok wing Pieter Rossouw, with whom he shares many similarities in playing style.
4. Jacques Potgieter (Bulls)
One of the Bulls’ best signings in many years, the former EP Kings loose forward delivered for his new employees with his unyielding defence and the momentum he generated with ball in hand. And he’s now a Springbok having never played SuperRugby before this year.
3. Juandre’ Kruger (Bulls)
The 26-year-old lock resurrected his career with his fiery displays in the tight and his tremendous lineout ability, both in terms of winning his own ball and disrupting the oppositions’. Seen as the potential successor to Victor Matfield, Kruger’s move from the Northampton Saints paid off with selection for the Springboks.
2. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks)
His work-rate alone pulverises the opposition and his all-action game includes efficient defence, powerful ball-carrying and the ability to play to the ball, working hard in the rucks as well. Coetzee made his SuperRugby debut last year, but this year he became a standout for the Springboks.
1. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers)
It is not often that someone as brilliant as Bakkies Botha seems to have a ready-made replacement within a year, but Etzebeth was a massive success both for the Stormers and South Africa. Over two metres tall and weighing 120kg, the 20-year-old lock makes big hits, can dominate the front of the lineout and has an unrelenting work rate.