26 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

SUPER RUGBY SA TEAM OF THE SEASON

The South African Super Rugby title challenge fizzled out at the quarterfinal stage this past weekend.

The Bulls, the top-placed local qualifier in fifth position, came up just short in Wellington, where the Hurricanes claimed a 35-28 win, while the Sharks were battered 38-13 by the Brumbies in Canberra.

The Lions and Stormers finished outside the elite eight. After three consecutive finals, the Lions crashed to a ninth-place finish in 2019, while the Stormers, in 10th, were the sole owners of the South African wooden spoon after having shared the misfortune with the Bulls last year.

And so, the time has come for us to reveal our South African Team of the Season.

15: Curwin Bosch (Sharks)

Ripped the Lions to shreds in a Man of the Match performance in his first start of the season in Round Eight and single-handedly turned the Sharks’ season around after he was finally given an opportunity in the No.10 jersey. Spearheaded the team to their first win in Sydney in 19 years in Round 11 and continued to be the Sharks’ attacking spark for the remainder of the season.

14: Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

The comeback story of the year. An absolute class act in his first season back after a serious heart ailment threatened to end his career. Scored some sensational tries – including arguably the best solo five-pointer of the season against the Lions at Loftus – and capped off a stunning push for a Springbok recall with brilliant back-to-back performances in his team’s final two games.

13: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)

Had a great season overall but was particularly prolific in the early rounds. So smart and skilful on attack, he sparked several tries with his play-making prowess – be it with slick passes or perfectly-weighted grubbers – and was the Sharks’ hero when he sunk the Stormers with a match-winning try at Newlands that sent the Durban side to the play-offs.

12: Damian de Allende (Stormers)

Added brains to his brawn this season. Painfully predictable for so long, he kept defences guessing by incorporating offloads and creative kicks into his usual power-driven game.

11: Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks)

A Man of the Match performance in the Sharks’ win over the Blues in Round Two set the speedster on his way to a sensational season. Was the complete package – a lethal strike runner, fantastic finisher and dependable defender. Separated himself from the rest and proved he has to go to the World Cup.

10: Handre Pollard (Bulls)

The Bulls’ MVP’s final Super Rugby season was also his best. The tournament’s top points-scorer showed why he will be pivotal to the Springboks’ World Cup hopes as he led the Bulls back to the play-offs for the first time since 2013 with his world-class game management, accurate boot and eye for the tryline.

9: Herschel Jantjies (Stormers) – Breakthrough Player of the Season

The find of the season. The nippy scrumhalf made an immediate impact when he came off the bench and scored the match-winning try against the Lions in Round Two, and went on to make the Stormers No.9 jersey his own. Looked at home in his rookie year of Super Rugby, playing with confidence and maturity well beyond his 22 years. An unknown this time last year, Jantjies’ super season has seen him included in the Springbok alignment camp.

8: Dan du Preez (Sharks) – Player of the Season

The constant shining light in an inconsistent side. In fact, the multi-skilled Sharks No.8 was the most consistently stellar and hardest-working South African player of the season. Carried the Sharks on his back with 177 hit-ups, the third-most regular-season runs, and ranked sixth in offloads with 19, highlighting his complete skillset. It’s fair to say the Sharks wouldn’t have had a sniff at the play-offs without Du Preez’s relentless go-forward grunt.

7: Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)

We simply had to find a place for Vermeulen after the veteran played such an integral role for the Bulls as a leader and hardman. Led the physical charge and was huge in the lineout and at the breakdown.

6: Kwagga Smith (Lions)

The Lions livewire was full of rabid runs, tackles and turnovers at six, seven and eight in 2019. Was the Johannesburg side’s star performer on a number of occasions and provided a unique highlight when he somehow managed to hoist Adam Ashley-Cooper in the air while in possession of the ball in the Lions’ win over the Waratahs in Round 13.

5: RG Snyman (Bulls)

A towering figure at the lineout, where he ranked fifth in the regular season with 50 takes. The most impressive aspect of his game, however, was his Harlem Globetrotter-like offloads, which brought a new dimension to the Pretoria team. With 19, he ranked 10th in offloads at the end of the regular season.

4: Jason Jenkins (Bulls)

The one-cap Bok reminded all of what he has to offer with strong, workmanlike performances in which he did the donkey work with brutal efficiency.

3: Carlu Sadie (Lions)

What a way to make the most of an opportunity! On loan from the Stormers, the former Baby Bok brutalised all comers at scrum time, was mobile around the park and even won a few turnovers.

2: Malcolm Marx (Lions)

Solidified his stature as South Africa’s best hooker and was the glue that kept the Lions together in a trying season. Led by example, was a behemoth with ball-in-hand and a turnover machine, unlike any other.

1: Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls)

A strong contender for Player of the Season. Churned out Test-level performance after Test-level performance, regularly racked up double-digit tackle numbers and was dependably dominant at scrum time. A breakout year for the Bulls loosehead and one that should lead to higher honours.

Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

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