SA United Rugby Championship Team of the Week Round 8

Coastal stars dominate our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

The Sharks kicked off the year by outgunning the Lions 47-37 in an 11-try thriller at Ellis Park before a fired-up Stormers side stunned the Bulls 30-26 in the second of Saturday’s local derbies at Loftus Versfeld.

Our team features eight Sharks, including the Player of the Week, and four Stormers, with a pair of Bulls and alone Lions ace completing our selection.

15: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)

Turned up in a big way after being starved of game time at the end of 2021. Showed his versatile kicking game, from grubbers and up-and-under to long punts into open spaces at the back. Superb on the attack, slicing through for his team’s first try and throwing the pass of the weekend to Makazole Mapimpi – a long bullet ball that led to the final try. Also made a try-saving tackle on Rabz Maxwane.

14: Edwill van der Merwe (Lions)

Excellent all around. An extraordinary piece of finishing to score in the corner chased very well and was great in the air, winning the contestable kicks more often than not. Made two try-saving tackles and a timely, dominant hit on Boeta Chamberlain that resulted in three points.

13: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)

Started the year with a reminder that he’s an unrivaled visionary as he set up two tries – soft hands and a well-timed pass for Fassi followed by a slick left-footed grubber for Mapimpi. Made some good carries and shrugged off a few defenders, won a textbook turnover early in the second half, made a big hit on Fred Zeilinga, and was rewarded with a try in the final play of the game.

12: Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

Solid if not spectacular. The Bulls skipper’s stature and experience were vital to pull his team together in the eye of the storm before more decorated veterans arrived in the second half to help in that department. Nothing special from the inside center collective it must be said.

11: Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks) – Player of the Week

South African rugby’s premier try-scoring machine got 2022 off to a flyer with a hat-trick at Ellis Park. Collected a clever grubber, made it look easy as he stepped inside Zeilinga, and then gobbled up a hack job by Maxwane for his third. Strong in contact and flawless on defence.

10: Morne Steyn (Bulls)

Manie Libbok played like a superstar in the first half, creating both of Seabelo Senatla’s tries with deft grubbers, slotting a 50m penalty, and executing pinpoint kicks into the corners. He went awfully pear-shaped in the second, though, when Steyn came on, steadied the ship and course-corrected like only he can, lifting the Bulls from an 11-point deficit into the lead, including catching the Stormers napping with an excellent piece of vision in the form of a cross-field kick to create Embrose Papier’s try.

9: Herschel Jantjies (Stormers)

It was great to see some of the attacking spark back that made him the breakout star of 2019. His break was the catalyst for the first try while he ran a textbook support line to snap up Warrick Gelant’s grubber and score. Edged a polished Grant Williams and Andre Warner, who showed good speed to score the Lions’ opening try and was spot on with his box kicks.

8: Evan Roos (Stormers)

Phepsi Buthelezi was brilliantly brutal, his power plays including bumping off two Lions back-to-back, while Elrigh Louw demonstrated great tackle fight and scored a surging try. However, Roos won the physical battle at Loftus, was omnipresent, and poached two of the Bulls’ lineouts, one in each half.

7: Jeandre Labuschagne (Sharks)

An eye-catching performance. Did the hard yards – seven carries and eight tackles – and made key plays. His sublime offload was instrumental in Mapimpi’s second try, while he also won a lineout on the Lions’ throw in his 22 and secured a turnover on the deck.

6: Deon Fourie (Stormers)

Marcell Coetzee made a massive impact when he came on in the second half, giving the Bulls the physical boost they desperately needed to get back into the game, while Jaco Kriel came alive in the second 40 in Johannesburg. Fourie fired from the start; he was a nuisance at the breakdown, winning penalties like the one in his 22 in the 16th minute and drawing Walt Steenkamp into conceding a costly penalty on the Stormers’ line. Made a few good leg driving carries too.

5: Hyron Andrews (Sharks)

Ultra-athletic and reliable at the restarts. It’s an overlooked area of play but Andrews really shone here, getting in position early and fearlessly touching the sky to secure possession. Just as good in the lineouts, where he snatched a vital steal on his 5m line in the 49th minute and was a lethal, lanky support runner on a number of occasions.

4: Ruben van Heerden (Sharks)

A man who does the donkey work with a smile. Made eight tackles at a 100% clip. Check the origins of Mapimpi’s second try and you’ll see it was Van Heerden who created the counterstrike with a breakdown turnover. Pipped direct opponent Ruben Schoeman, who also put in a big shift and powered over from close quarters.

3: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)

An underappreciated powerhouse who’s been in remarkable form over the last two years. Unbelievable work rate, making tackle after tackle, smashed over the gain line time and time again with the ball in hand, and was a boulder-sized problem at the breakdown.

2: Kerron van Vuuren (Sharks)

The most clinical of the candidates in the set pieces and most disciplined in general play. Good work rate, his surge led to a try and he went over for a five-pointer of his own. Jaco Grobbelaar scored a maul try as well to open the Bulls’ account on the stroke of half-time after doing well to stay infield but wasn’t as accurate in the lineouts as Van Vuuren.

1: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)

A URC debut to savour. The Loftus upset showed the Stormers are a different team with their World Cup-winning titan on the frontline. Provided invaluable leadership, power, class, and output. Gave the Bulls horns in the scrums, which fanned the flames of the first-half wildfire, kept the heat on with a weekend-high 11 tackles, and was prominent at the breakdown.

SIGN UP TO OUR BET CENTRAL PLAYBOOK

Get weekly emails packed with the best tips and sports content.

Get ahead of the game now – fill in the contact form below.

Share with friends and family

Author: editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.