Five young players to headline the Currie Cup

There is no doubt the Currie Cup has been the foundation for plenty of the legends of South African rugby. However, in recent years, one of the world's oldest domestic rugby competitions has struggled to maintain relevance in South Africa's rugby landscape -- with the focus on Super Rugby and PRO14 as pathways to the Springboks.

Instead of producing the giants of Springboks rugby it once did, the Currie Cup is now teeming with young players looking to take their talent to Super Rugby in seasons to come.

Here are five youngsters to keep an eye on in the 2018 Currie Cup.

Wandisile Simelane (Golden Lions)

The young back is already somewhat of a household name at the tender age of 20, after announcing himself at Craven Week in 2016. Playing at outside centre, the Jeppe star scored 29 points including a first-half hat-trick to propel the Lions to victory in the week's unofficial final and earn himself the Hero of the Day award.

The hype around him only grew from then and he truly impressed on the global stage at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship earlier this year, when he controversially played on the wing rather than his preferred position of inside centre.

He showcased his skill, strength and prowess under the high ball to finish as the tournament's top try scorer including a hat-trick during the Junior Springboks' win over Ireland.

He will be hoping to continue his rapid rise and claim a spot in the Lions' Super Rugby squad for next year.

Juarno Augustus (Western Province)

Augustus has already made his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers, but the number eight has been plagued by injury since being named World Rugby Junior Player of the Year in 2017, the award handed to the player of the tournament in that year's World Rugby Under-20 Championship. Like Simelane in 2018, he also finished as the tournament's top try-scorer.

Augustus' strength is just that -- his strength. He is a powerful backrower who uses his 100-plus kilogrammes to power over the gain line and over the try line from close range.

He was named in the Stormers' Super Rugby squad again for this year, but a back injury kept him from getting any game time.

He made his comeback for Western Province during the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, and scored a brace to help his side salvage a 24-24 draw with Boland Cavaliers.

Western Province coach John Dobson will be hoping the power that Augustus brings will help his side defend the title.

Christopher Smith (Pumas)

After starting in three consecutive Varsity Cup finals, Smith finally led Maties to victory in 2018. The fly-half kicked four conversions and a drop goal in their convincing 40-7 win over NWU Pukke.

Not long after lifting the trophy, he swapped the winelands of Stellenbosch for the bushveld of Nelspruit when he was signed by the Pumas for the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.

He made an immediate impact for his new team, and he kicked a penalty and three conversions as the Pumas beat Griquas in the Rugby Challenge final.

Smith finished the competition as the top points scorer, and he will be looking forward to carrying that form through to his debut Currie Cup season.

Grant Williams (Sharks)

The Sharks have strong depth at scrum-half with Louis Schreuder and Cameron Wright having both toured with the Springboks in the past, so Grant Williams has work to do if he is to make an impact on the tournament.

There is little doubt the Maties alumnus has the talent, however, as he made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks in 2018 after progressing through the their under-19 and under-21 ranks.

He has a crisp pass to provide quality ball to the backs outside him, but it's his electric pace that poses the biggest threat to the opposition. That speed also offers the Sharks the option of using him as cover out wide, which could provide him an opportunity to break through.

Sintu Manjezi (Griquas)

The number-four lock was a star from an early age, and he played for St Andrews' First XV in Grahamstown for three years from Grade 10; he was named captain in his final year. While at school Manjezi was selected to represent his native Eastern Province at under-19 level not only in rugby but also in cricket.

Standing almost two metres tall, he was a threatening right-arm fast bowler on the cricket pitch; height which makes him an imposing lineout jumper on the rugby field. He is furthermore a powerful ball carrier with exceptional skills for a tight forward and surprisingly good footwork for a man of his size.

He made two appearances in Super Rugby with the Southern Kings last year, and earned 15 caps for the Eastern Province Kings during his time with the senior side in 2016 and 2017 before he made the move to Kimberley.

He and his Griquas teammates will be hoping to cause a few upsets in the new Currie Cup season.