Future Star: Craig Barry

This 17-year-old has been grabbing a lot of attention in his first year in the Paul Roos 1st XV with some stellar performances.

fs1Last year, Barry played flyhalf for Paul Roos at U16 level and represented Western Province at the Grant Khomo Week. This year, his move to fullback has seen him flourish, and he’s scored several tries, including five at the St John’s Easter Festival.

Paul Roos coach Frans van Niekerk believes Barry’s skills are best suited to fullback, even though he’s more than capable of playing almost anywhere in the backline.

‘He has all the attributes to be a great fullback. He’s solid under the high ball, he has a good right boot on him, his passing is also right up there and he has excellent anticipation. We’ve been playing him at fullback this year and he played there for the WP U16 side last year.’

Barry, like his hero, Sharks and Springbok winger JP Pietersen, is blessed with plenty of pace, but Van Niekerk claims it’s his intuition that sets him apart.

‘He’s a player whose natural tendency is to join the attacking line, and the pace at which he enters the line is outstanding,’ says the coach. ‘His instinct is his biggest asset and that’s something you can’t teach.’

Van Niekerk has been highly impressed with the youngster’s work ethic, and he says he constantly seeks to improve his game.

Having seen many talented youngsters come through the ranks at Paul Roos, Van Niekerk is worried that Barry’s career may be fast-tracked, an approach that’s had a detrimental effect on a number of promising players in the past.

‘He’s so talented and at his age the emotional side of him has not fully developed. It can really affect the players’ focus when the spotlight is on them at such a young age. I had that exact problem with [Maties No 8] Cameron Peverett a few years ago. He lost his focus and had a hard time getting back to his best form.’

Barry, though, remains humble and knows he’s far from the finished product.

‘I’ve been happy with my performances so far this season, but I can get better,’ he says. ‘My positional play is an area where I probably need to improve the most and I’m working hard on that.’

By Andrew Worling

This article first appeared in SA Rugby magazine