Wolhuter's comeback continues against Pumas

rugby13 March 2024 15:10| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Kade Wolhuter © Gallo Images

The talented but desperately unlucky young flyhalf Kade Wolhuter will continue his comeback after a second debilitating injury when he wears the No 10 jersey for an Emirates Lions XV in a friendly against the Airlink Pumas at Emirates Airline Park on Thursday.

The match, which will kick off at 2pm, is being staged to offer the Lions a chance to give game time to fringe players and players coming back from injury as they work hard on building their depth, while the Pumas are also readying themselves for the challenge of the SA Cup that kicks off on Human Rights Day (21 March).

Featuring 46 matches, the SA Cup replaces the Mzansi Challenge. Featuring 10 teams, it will culminate in a final between the two top-ranked sides in the SA Cup Final on the weekend of 24 and 25 May. It is designed to prepare the teams for the start of the Currie Cup Premier and First Divisions that will take place from June.

The Lions also played a friendly against the SA under-20 team last week, a game they won comfortably, and Wolhuter started in that one too. Recognised as a star of the future by the then-national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus in 2020, which saw him earning a Player of National Importance (Poni) contract, Wolhuter’s promising career was cut short by an ACL tear not long after making an impressive senior debut for the DHL Stormers at the age of just 19.

That was in 2021 and a long period of rehabilitation followed. Wolhuter returned to the playing field in 2022 and featured occasionally for the Stormers in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and for Western Province in the Currie Cup but the big challenge for him was to regain his old confidence.

With Manie Libbok having moved down from the Hollywoodbets Sharks and establishing himself as the first-choice Stormers flyhalf, Wolhuter was just returning to his best form again when he was struck down by another ACL tear. Stormers coach John Dobson, a great admirer of the former Paul Roos Gymnasium schoolboy star, said at the time that his franchise would stand by Wolhuter as he went through the rehabilitation period.


However, opportunity came knocking for Wolhuter when the Lions were looking for a flyhalf just as his own return to the playing field was nearing the horizon, and he went to the Johannesburg union on loan. There have been reports that the 22-year-old has now signed a longer contract of two years, and he is clearly being looked at as an alternative to Jordan Hendrikse, who is heading to the Sharks next season.

Of course, Sanele Nohamba also plays flyhalf these days but in his most recent game against his former team, the Sharks, the former Durban schoolboy was back wearing the No 9. The emergence of Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Jurie Matthee as players the Stormers can back to wear the No 10 if Libbok is injured would make such a move a sensible one.

Every game Wolhuter plays will be watched with interest as although his career has been held up, he is still a young player and he can still travel a long way in the game once he has fully regained his strength and confidence.

Another Lions player making his way back from injury in the friendlies they are playing is the hugely underrated lock, Ruben Schoeman, who will start in the Lions XV engine room against the Pumas. The team will be captained by the former Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee and includes a smattering of players who have played both URC and EPCR Challenge Cup rugby for the Lions during the course of the season.

With the Lions due to head on a URC tour next week some of those players will be looking for a place on the plane.

Emirates Lions XV (to play Airlink Pumas on Thursday): Andries Coetzee (captain), Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Zander du Plessis, Keagan Smith, Kade Wolhuter, Johan Mulder, Sibusiso Sangweni, Izan Esterhuizen, Renzo du Plessis, Ruan Delport, Ruben Schoeman, Sivu Mabece, Morne Brandon, Ruan Smith. Replacements: Jacques-Lois du Toits, SJ Kotze, Heiko Pohlman, Raynard Roets, Jarod Cairns, Nico Steyn, Tyler Brocks, Bronson Mills.