Down but never out, the much-maligned Currie Cup continues to be a platform for up-and-coming youngsters to showcase their potential and likely ability to handle bigger future challenges with aplomb, while also assisting more experienced yet forgotten players to remind all of their worth.
The distinctly stretched-out first four rounds of action in 2022 has delivered that exact mix of players who’ve been putting up their hands.
Here are five men grabbing the – relatively speaking – limelight.
MIHLALI MOSI (CHEETAHS)
One of numerous hidden gems to emerge from last year’s Varsity Cup, the 25-year-old loose forward steadily familiarised himself with the setup in Bloemfontein when he arrived and has now blossomed into a key member.
Blessed with athleticism, Mosi has illustrated a pleasing willingness to supplement his attacking carrying abilities with increasingly imposing defence.
Following a mixed bag of tackling in the opener against Griquas, Mosi has tightened up considerably, excelling in the freewheeling affair against the Bulls at Loftus, where he didn’t miss a single attempt.
He’s also become a reliable lineout option.
ZANDER DU PLESSIS (GRIQUAS)
After nailing a magnificent 63m penalty against the Pumas, everyone pondered whether a new Frans Steyn has emerged.
Du Plessis, a star in Tuks’ Varsity Cup-winning team of 2021, certainly possesses the technique and boot to follow in the footsteps of the Springbok legend.
But the mop-haired play-maker will also tell you he’s his own man and his gradually finding his groove at inside centre, where his immense defence has been a highlight.
Based on his current trajectory, he’ll be hot property for the bigger franchises soon.
MPILO GUMEDE (SHARKS)
Still only 21, this Junior Springbok was set to light up the world stage in his second year as an Under-20 international before Covid-19 struck.
Yet the hype was real given how he’s performed in the Currie Cup to date.
Gumede has arguably been the most polished performer in the tournament, gaining metres with impunity when he as the ball in his hands and being rewarded with two tries as well.
He also starred as defender against Western Province and Griquas before turning breakdown poacher in the try-fest against the Lions.
A star is in the making.
LEOLIN ZAS (WESTERN PROVINCE)
The 26-year-old utility back can rightly consider himself unlucky not to be a regular member of the Stormers’ URC squad.
Known as a winger, Zas has been a revelation at outside centre, combining his nose for a gap and the tryline with some tight marking in a channel that’s difficult to defend.
He’s been by far the best Province player on the field during their three defeats to date to underline that he probably deserves a shot against European opponents.
QUAN HORN (LIONS)
His reputation at schools level precedes him and he was also an influential member of the Lions’ Under-20 Cup triumph last season.
However, Horn’s impact has been dramatic in a struggling team that’s perhaps skewed towards youth too much.
He’s an absolute pocket rocket from fullback, revelling in the space that’s afforded to him from the position.
More impressively though, Horn has shown that he can stand up to tougher aspects of his job, proving to be a nuggety defender and having a decent left boot.
It’s no wonder he graduated quite quickly to the URC squad.