Currie Cup Team of the Week – Round 1

Currie Cup Best players
By Quintin van Jaarsveld

The men from Pretoria provide a third of our Currie Cup Team of the Week after their heroics at Newlands, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Bulls showed exceptional character to claim a remarkable 22-20 win over Western Province in the final North-South derby at the old dame of South African rugby on Saturday, despite losing loosehead Jacques van Rooyen to a red card in the 47th minute.

A quintet of Bulls stars cracked the nod, one of whom is our Player of the Week. Province have four representatives, as do the Sharks, who kicked off the competition with a comprehensive 45-10 win over the Pumas at Kings Park on Friday night.

Sandwiched in between was the clash between Griquas and the Lions at Tafel Lager Park, where the Kimberley team’s bad luck continued. The hosts lost the lead moments before an approaching thunderstorm brought the encounter to a premature end, with the Lions escaping with a 20-17 win. A player from each side round off our team (the Cheetahs had a bye).

15: Warrick Gelant (Western Province)

James Verity-Amm scored a try and was good under the high ball in the howling wind, while David Kriel was solid if not spectacular. Gelant played a vital senior role at the back, doing most of the tactical kicking to pin the Bulls in their 22 and kept asking questions of the defence with a backline-high 12 runs.

14: Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)

Super-sub extraordinaire! Talk about making an impact, his second-half cameo was simply sensational. The turbocharged predator left everyone in awe when he plucked a restart out of the air and streaked in, and doubled down with an intercept try. Made a few dominant tackles as well and came away with the Man of the Match award.

13: Jeremy Ward (Sharks)

The Sharks outworked as much as they outclassed their visitors, with Ward leading by example. Punished the Pumas with a brace born out of constant pressure, both creating and capitalising on mistakes. Maintained his high work rate throughout and put in some big hits.

12: Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

His transition from wing to the midfield has truly been magnificent. Sparked one of the tries of the weekend with textbook straight running (looking like a seasoned inside centre) and a perfect long pass that sent Kurt-Lee Arendse in. Was the meat of the Bulls backline, using his strength and size to good effect (10 tackles). Marius Louw and Johnathan Francke also impressed.

11: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)

A Player of the Week contender following his dream (Currie Cup) debut, which included a double. Dangerous from the get-go, scaring the hosts with an early counter-attack from inside his 22. Presence of mind to score his second closer to the sticks to make the crucial conversion easier. Good in the air, poached a turnover and reeled in fellow Blitzbok Ruhan Nel after he’d intercepted.

10: Chris Smith (Bulls)

Quiet up until the final quarter, when he came out of his shell and played a pivotal role in the remarkable come-from-behind win. Threw two brilliant/vital passes in the lead up to Arendse’s second try, made a great line break – beating three defenders – set up Marco Jansen van Vuren with a pinpoint crosskick and coolly nailed the decisive conversion from the left-hand corner.

9: Zak Burger (Griquas)

An excellent round by the nines across the board, but it’s Burger who cracked the nod for yet another talismanic performance for unlucky Griquas. Decision-making was out of the top drawer, made a sniping line break, which he followed up with a bullet pass to Eduan Keyter, who stepped inside and scored and made a try-saving tackle.

8: Juarno Augustus (Western Province)

“Trokkie” revelled in the North-South demolition derby and was rewarded with the Man of the Match award. Western Province’s wrecking ball, he led the hosts in carries (13), broke a handful of tackles with his renowned strength and force and crashed over the whitewash. Ruthless rucker as well, constantly smashing the Bulls back and hacked the ball through following a counter-ruck on one occasion.

7: Arno Botha (Bulls) – Player of the Week

Barnstorming Botha spearheaded the visitors’ heroics in a heart and guts display that’ll significantly bolster his hopes of a Springbok recall. Passion personified, he made a team-high 13 carries and 15 tackles, including rag-dolling Gelant into touch. Showcased his offloading skills as well and won two vital turnovers – at the breakdown and later ripping the ball from Seabelo Senatla’s grasp at the death.

6: Dylan Richardson (Sharks)

Marco van Staden continued his good form, particularly on defence (making 10 tackles and winning a turnover). However, Richardson was remarkable, showing how influential he can be in his preferred position instead of being tried at hooker. Endless energy, executing a joint-round-high 16 tackles and got onto the scoresheet.

5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)

The toughest decision of the round as both Nortje and JD Schickerling deserve a place in our team after their brilliant back-and-forth battle, while Hyron Andrews and Marvin Orie also shone. Schickerling was a defensive nuisance in the maul, stole a lineout just outside the Bulls’ 22 and made 12 tackles. Nortje’s output was even better, though; he racked up a joint-round-high 16 hits and was a physical force in the trenches.

4: Willem Alberts (Lions)

Speaking of a physical force, “The Bone Collector” was in some type of mood. The 36-year-old has, understandably, lost a step or two (hence the shift to the second row) but showed he can still make a significant impact with his 120kg frame. Carried strongly, in particular, matched his nine hit-ups with nine hits and was the main source of lineout ball. Just shaded Ruben van Heerden.

3: Frans Malherbe (Western Province)

Arguably the best tighthead in world rugby at the moment, Malherbe gave Western Province a distinct advantage at scrum time. His displeasure at Damian Willemse missing a regulation penalty he’d accrued by steamrolling Van Rooyen summed up a frustrating night at Newlands for the hosts.

2: Kerron van Vuuren (Sharks)

The Sharks’ set-piece stabiliser. Didn’t put a foot wrong; laser-like with his lineout throwing, exhibiting excellent variation to boot and was rewarded with a try from the back of a driving maul. Impressive work rate. Edged out the ever-impressive Bongi Mbonambi.

1: Steven Kitshoff (Western Province)

A colossus at scrum time and in open play. Gored Marcel van der Merwe when he temporarily replaced Trevor Nyakane, winning a penalty on the Bulls’ feed in their 22 and a second moments later, which eventually led to Augustus’ try. Made 10 carries, 12 tackles and won three turnovers – near the halfway line, in his 22 and in the 72nd minute.

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