Thank the sporting gods for letting Wandisile Simelane choose rugby.
If you saw the 20-year-old go in his Super Rugby starting debut for the Lions against the Jaguares at the weekend, you’d want to thank them even more and maybe even add an offering or two.
Simelane was on fire.
In a team that has no shortage of stars, he was on fire.
He not only scored a try, but his perfect basketball-like pass to create one as well was pure class.
The way he cut between two defenders and still managed to get the ball to a mate in space was superb. He penetrated the Argentinians’ defence with his pace and carved it up with his footwork.
Throughout the match he displayed his brilliant ball skills, and it was enough to cap a stunning performance with the Man of the Match award.
And the fact that he could produce a performance like that after his bad mistake gifted the Jaguares a scrum also said a lot about his character and temperament.
It may look like it now, but the former Junior Bok star didn’t have mini Gilberts hanging over his cot to imprint the sport into his head from a young age.
In fact, he easily could have ended up gracing soccer pitches with his athletic ability.
In 2012, the then-14-year-old Soweto-born baller had to choose between the sports bursary he was offered at Jeppe High School for Boys (which came with an opportunity to play rugby) or continue with football.
And now, after having played for the SA Schools team and setting the World Rugby Under-20 Championship stage alight, it’s exciting to think what the centre with the wicked step and vision to boot can still produce.
He commanded attention with his fine Currie Cup efforts off the bench last season, and his latest show proved that he’s one for the future.
While he can play on the wing as well, it’s at 13 where Simelane is devastating, and it’s at 13 where he should continue to grow.
He’s the next generation of South African centre.
Lions v Jaguares | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 4 Highlights
Elton Jantjies surpassed 1000 points in Super Rugby, but it was the @LionsRugbyCo youth that stole the show on the way to a 47-39 victory over the @JaguaresARG in Johannesburg.#SuperRugby #LIOvJAG pic.twitter.com/N3HKusN1ka
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) March 9, 2019
And given the struggles the Springboks have faced in that jersey since the Jaque Fourie days, Simelane’s addition to the SA outside centre pool – alongside the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel and Lionel Mapoe – is a promising one, a needed one.
Last week, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus discussed the new contracting model, which aims to prioritise expenditure with a greater focus on grabbing the next generation of talent.
Simelane immediately comes to mind when you think of that system.
And if the young centre who can torment opposition defences continues on this path, he’ll soon shift from being a ‘next generation’ gem to a trending threat.