There were tough choices to make across the board when it came to selecting our local United Rugby Championship Team of the Week following a third South African clean sweep, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Sharks bounced back from their loss to Edinburgh emphatically in Durban on Friday night, demolishing the Dragons 51-3, while in Pretoria, the Bulls poured it on in the second half to score an impressive 34-16 win over Ulster in the first of Saturday’s fixtures involving local teams.
The Lions followed suit as they clawed their way back after the break to edge Edinburgh 15-9 at Ellis Park before the Stormers completed the full house with a 29-13 win over the Ospreys in Cape Town.
There are five Stormers stars on our side, the Sharks and Bulls have four representatives each and a pair of Lions cracked the nod.
15: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
Fantastic in everything he did, including a couple of long touch-finders early on. Peerless under the high ball, provided impetus at a crucial time with a sidestepping break that nearly resulted in a try and read Ulster like a book to run in a long-range intercept try that sealed a bonus-point win. Edged an ultra-impressive Quan Horn.
14: Werner Kok (Sharks)- Player Of The Week
Workhorse? More like a rabid honey badger! A vintage performance by the most energetic and competitive player in the game. Chased like a demon, fought fiercely at the breakdown, ran over Elliot Dee, and topped off his Man of the Match performance with a sensational solo try.
13: Ruhan Nel (Stormers)
Relished the fast-paced, free-flowing first half in a Stormers backline that showed out as a whole and put in solid work in the second half when things didn’t come so easily. Wandisile Simelane also made an impression, especially with a collection of valuable kicks, which included an early 50:22.
12: Harold Vorster (Bulls)
One part old school – running hard and straight – and one part new school – releasing a deft offload to Canan Moodie. Worked his socks off, from being on the spot to pounce on a loose ball and unleash Madosh Tambwe for a try to adding his weight and power to a driving maul to help earn another try. A dog on defence as well.
11: Leolin Zas (Stormers)
A predator at the peak of his powers. So nice he had to do it twice, scoring two terrific tries, the first a show of strength and the second of skill. Ran for a match-high 84 metres. Pity he conceded a yellow card but still pipped Tambwe, who also continued his good form and try-scoring ways with a top-class finish.
10: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
A stallion was allowed to run free and what a sight it was to behold. It was the Libbok show in Cape Town, with the red-hot pivot at his playmaking best, especially in the first half when he cut the Ospreys to pieces (beating a match-high five defenders) and created two tries. Also saw yellow late but fully deserving of his Man of the Match award. Pipped Curwin Bosch, who had a timely return to form, slotting 7/7 off the tee for a personal tally of 17 points.
9: Morne van den Berg (Lions)
A livewire scrumhalf making the most of his license to thrill…a joy to watch. Vision and conviction made pint-sized “Krappies” a massive problem for Edinburgh. A brilliant blindside break and offload to spark the opening try, a dangerous dart just before half time and a braveheart on defence, cutting down giants and snatching turnovers.
8: Evan Roos (Stormers)
Call him “TNT” because he’s dynamite! Exceptionally explosive, blazing trails that lead to tries, like the surge in the lead-up to Adre Smith’s score, and bucking off the back of the scrum. Excellent over the ball as well, snuffing out a try-scoring opportunity in the 32nd minute and seizing another turnover shortly after halftime. Finished with team-high successful carries (7) and tackles (11).
7: Vincent Tshituka (Lions)
Played as a man possessed. A central figure in a Lions pack that fired as a unit. Made major contributions on both sides of the ball, stepping and spinning out of tackles, winning counter-rucking turnovers, featuring in the lineout, scoring a crucial try, and delivering a match-sealing breakdown penalty to claim yet another Man of the Match award.
6: Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)
At the most precarious time in the match, trailing 9-3, the Bulls captain was the catalyst as he beat Duane Vermeulen mano a mano to score the opening try that changed the complexion of the game. The team’s best ball carrier was relentless on defence and ripped a few turnovers to ensure victory against his former team. The unfortunate yellow card did little to detract from a talismanic effort.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
Showed he is international calibre by producing a Man of the Match performance in his head-to-head battle against Ireland veteran Iain Henderson. Everywhere on defence, making an unrivaled 16 tackles, next-level hands for a second-rower – popping an outrageous one-handed offload off the ground – and claimed a vital lineout steal five metres from his try line in the 71st minute.
4: Adre Smith (Bulls)
A strong 80-minute performance, both in terms of physicality and mobility. Worked hard off the ball to be in position and then had the wherewithal to pick up and go to score a try and a pillar of strength in the lineout, where he poached one on the Ospreys’ throw. Edged Le Roux Roets, who played a big role in the Sharks’ forward dominance.
3: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Led the decimation of the Dragons scrum that saw the Sharks build scoreboard pressure right away and ultimately earn five penalties – in other words, total annihilation. Massive across the park, too, was the stand-in skipper.
2: Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks)
An absolute barnstorming showing that started with an excellent early break and offloads and finished with a perfectly timed and angled surge to break the line. Sublime in the set pieces and managed the driving maul to perfection for his try.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Power personified. Flexed his muscles at scrum time and was a recurring nightmare for the Dragons with the ball in hand. Just kept coming and coming and showcased great strength and determination in contact to will his way over for the opening try.
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