Travis Ismaiel is one of the wingers that has glided under the radar in this year’s Super Rugby, writes Benedict Chanakira
What the winger offers is an imposing frame and subtle brilliance and the best outside back at Loftus and he holds the potential to be their biggest trump card. The Blue Bulls are laden with talent in their back line with players with international pedigree like Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein.
Young stars that have emerged in that squad includes Jamba Ulengo the 100kg unit and Warrick Gelant the dancing gazelle.
Ismaiel has gone somewhat unnoticed on several occasions but has emerged as the Bulls biggest weapon from the back.
Travis speaks glowingly about what is close to his heart, ‘”I am a chilled, laid back person and family orientated man. My daughter is definitely my motivation and I have a dream and I am chasing it.“
The 24 year old was brilliant for the Bulls this season, he has always been a player here and there. Efficient at junior Currie Cup level but never quite set the world alight but Travis was at hand to earn a solitary cap in the talented 2012 Baby Boks side due to an injury.
The winger is an all-round weapon and he has managed to rack in the meters with only SP Marais has managed to make more. He has been able to break the line twelve times which leaves him top alongside Jesse Kriel and Jamba Ulengo.
“I believe I am a strong finisher, have remarkable work-rate and use my physicality well in matches.” This is all evident when the winger plays.
Ismaiel tops the try scoring charts with six alongside skipper Adriaan Strauss at the franchise and his try against the Cheetahs at the end of the season is one to remember as he stretched over with a few defenders on him, a demonstration of his explosiveness, power and strength.
This is something further highlighted as he racks up 31 defenders beaten. His handling and evasive skills are also impressive as he has often managed to find support with an offload. Only Jan Serfontein has one more offload with 7 in the backs than Travis.
The Blue Bulls continue to evolve their game with the winger a key player in their plans going forward. Currently recovering from a groin niggle as he looks to return on the pitch soon.
One would point at his missed tackle count of 14 which shows a weakness in that department, however consideration must be made to the fact wingers often chase kicks and considering the Blue Bulls kick often one could make sense of this statistic which can be deceptive.
The Bulls are at a fragile stage of their development and it’s quite a joy to see them add wingers who offer all-round skills from being explosive through contact, power, speed, high-ball prowess, a rugby brain and a willingness to keep defenders guessing.
Ismaiel has the potential to be a Springbok and will no doubt be knocking on that door. His performance in the SA A games were enough to highlight his brilliance.
On his selection for the SA ‘A’ squad, “It was a special experience. I got to play with new guys and also had to deal with different coaching methods. I managed to learn certain lessons in this rugby journey and it was exciting. I enjoyed my season. It was great, an injury free run which gave me the opportunity to play often and it was exciting playing with Warrick and Jamba at the beginning of the season.”
When quizzed on where he wants to be in five years? “I will be 29 years,” as he quipped, after we exchange a roar of laughter, he speaks of his goal to wear the green and gold and to become a regular in the Springbok team. The shy, silent assassin is the Bulls’ best outside back and he is quietly gaining a strong reputation.
Keep an eye on him as he looks to develop and become one of the World’s best.