Talented young midfielder Wandisile Simelane’s future at the Lions hangs in the balance, with reports that several unions are after his signature.
The 22-year-old former SA Under-20 star is said to be in his last year of his contract with the Lions and believed to be unhappy at the lack of game time he was handed in this year’s shortened Super Rugby campaign.
But as his representatives scramble to find him a new home or a better deal in Johannesburg, where do Sport24 writers think Simelane should take his talents?
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Sibusiso Mjikeliso: Cross the Jukskei to the Bulls
With Johnny Kotze out, Simelane would make the perfect foil for the direct Burger Odendaal.
Simelane has slightly more toe and likes to play with the rest of his three-quarters in the backline. Joining the Bulls would allow him to jam with Rosko Specman and Cornal Hendricks; an explosive combination.
Although not gifted with as much raw speed, there is some Bryan Habana about Simelane – the Habana that tore up the Currie Cup in the No 13 jumper for the Golden Lions before he moved to the Bulls.
We know how well the move across the Jukskei River turned out for Habana, so there is a high likelihood that the Bulls could have the same transformative effect on Simelane.
Under Jake White, Simelane’s chances of game time are good. White wants to build a competitive team and Simelane is hungry for game time.
While the Bulls lost Manie Libbok and Warrick Gelant, there is still enough in the youth reserves to form a new dynasty, around the likes of utility back Diego Appollis (19) and 21-year-old flyhalf Vaughen Isaacs. Mixing in with such talent, in the hands of a World Cup-winning coach, should be the most enticing prospect.
Garrin Lambley: The Stormers and the beautiful Cape
It’s time for a change of scenery, Wandisile!
It’s clear your career is stuck in second gear at the Lions. The Cape is beautiful this time of year, not to mention that mountain and the ocean.
And the deal-clincher? The Stormers have a stunning new home from 2021 onwards, albeit a football stadium.
With the British & Irish Lions tour on the horizon, now’s the time to stake your claim, and where better to do so than alongside your former Junior Springboks centre partner, Rikus Pretorius, who’s just extended his stay in the Mother City?
Picture this scenario: Herschel Jantjies clears to Damian Willemse, skip pass to Pretorius who offloads in the tackle to a flying Warrick Gelant who hits the line with only the fullback to beat … he draws his man and passes inside to a gleeful Wandisile ‘new signing’ Simelane who goes OVER!
Stormers win! Stormers win!
Sounds good to me. Sign on the dotted line.
Heinz Schenk: Stay at the Lions
There’s something I must admit from the outset.
I’m not entirely comfortable with the current quality of Simelane’s development at Ellis Park. With Neil de Bruin – a gifted attacking and skills coach – departing for Japan to join Johan Ackermann, the Lions are now left with a highly inexperienced coaching staff.
One has to ask, as head coach Cash van Rooyen and co gradually find their feet, is there enough time for that process not to hinder Simelane’s evolution?
However, at 22, the former Junior Springbok standout also has ample scope for growth.
If there’s one thing Van Rooyen has illustrated vividly at Currie Cup level, it’s that he has the ability to give his youngsters freedom to express themselves.
Given his immense talent, it won’t do Simelane harm to continue cultivating the more instinctive facets of his play while having the outlook of reasonable game-time.
Letting him stay at the Lions is beneficial to SA rugby too.
Do the Bulls want to hinder the emergence of a Diego Appollis and Dawid Kellerman? What about Rikus Pretorius at the Stormers?
We can safely assume after next year’s British and Irish Lions tour that men like Lukhanyo Am and Ruhan Nel will move on.
Then is the time to pounce on Simelane.