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Currie Cup Team Of The Tournament

The history-making Pumas left us tickled pink when it came time to select our Currie Cup Team of the Tournament, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

The history-making Pumas left us tickled pink when it came time to select our Currie Cup Team of the Tournament, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

The ultimate underdogs from Nelspruit, who beat Griquas 26-19 in a fairy-tale final in Kimberley at the weekend to clinch their first-ever title, boast the most representatives in our side with six. Three of the Peacock Blues’ brightest stars are included, one of whom earned the Player of the Tournament honours.

The beaten semi-finalists provide the rest of our team. The Cheetahs, who topped the table after dominating much of the season and winning nine in a row, have five representatives while a lone member of the Bulls, who finished the regular season in second position but fell short of securing a third successive title, made the cut.

15: Devon Williams (Pumas)

Tristan Leyds and Quan Horn made strong cases, but Williams did more than enough to earn the No.15 jersey. Best known for his mercurial skills and x-factor, the potent fullback was the total package, scoring and setting up tries and using his educated left boot for booming exits, 50:22s, and dangerous dinks. Was often the man who stood up in big moments, including pulling off an excellent one-handed take of Thinus de Beer’s long pass to score the first try of the final.

14: Sebastian de Klerk (Pumas)

Already on the “ones to watch” list before the competition kicked off, De Klerk raised his stock by diversifying in dynamic fashion. Started the campaign in his usual position on the wing and shifted quite seamlessly into the outside centre role, where he finished the season. A fast, fleet-footed game-breaker wherever he plays, his eight tries were the joint-second-most of the season.

13: Sango Xamlashe (Griquas)

Had a superb season that screamed the sky’s the limit. Has magic in his hands and feet, however, what makes the 23-year-old one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the campaign is that he has rugby IQ and tackle fight to match. On top of that, the 2021 Varsity Cup-winning Tuks captain took a leap in the leadership department by captaining Griquas in the final. Might well have played his way back to the Bulls.

12: Eddie Fouche (Pumas)

Equally adept at flyhalf and inside centre, he was a key driver for the Lowvelders. Especially impactful in tandem with Thinus de Beer. Had defences in two minds with his unpredictability and flair, unleashed his outside backs with outstanding distribution, was rock-solid on defence, and good off the tee to finish third on the points-scorer list with 88. Frans Steyn was immense for the Cheetahs but missed the business end of the tournament through injury.

11: Luther Obi (Griquas)

A specimen of note, who blazed a trail to set himself apart as the most explosive player of the season. A scintillating strike runner with rocket fuel in his veins, Obi blasted off to either maximise space afforded to him or punch through contact. Made some big defensive plays as well.

10: Thinus de Beer (Pumas)

Came into his own in phenomenal fashion to guide the Pumas to glory. An attacking dynamo, who provided highlight upon highlight, most importantly, orchestrating the stunning last-gasp semi-final win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Shredded the first line of defence with wicked footwork, created numerous tries with prodigious passing, and showed his temperament and tactical astuteness in the final.

9: Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs)

Like a triple distilled whiskey, the Springbok legend and Cheetahs captain was smooth and sophisticated class. Unrivalled game-generalship with his world of experience and polished skills and an absolute sharpshooter off the tee, topping the tournament with 115 points. His injury in the semi-final against the Pumas proved to be the beginning of the end for the Bloemfontein brigade.

8: Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas)

Closed his career-making chapter at the Pumas by powering them to seemingly impossible heights. Led from the front all season, both at No.8 and blindside flank, but saved the best for last with a try-scoring Man of the Match performance in the final. Few are as bone-crushingly physical as Engelbrecht, which covers a lot of ground in a country where rugby is played harder than anywhere else, while he showed off stunning offloading abilities as well.

7: Hanru Sirgel (Griquas) – Player Of The Tournament

The beating heart of the Peacock Blues, Sirgel played every game like his life depended on it. A storm-trooper with ball in hand, powerful and ravenous as he crashed through walls. Scored six tries and was a heat-seeking missile on defence, both in terms of output and competing at the breakdown. Griquas may have missed out on the title, but Sirgel was the tournament’s MVP. At 24, he’s brimming with potential and would be a welcome addition to any URC franchise.

6: Daniel Maartens (Pumas)

A passion-powered workhorse who gave every ounce of energy to help the Lowvelders over the line in his last season in Nelspruit. An unsung hero in a way as most would’ve missed the yeoman work that formed the bulk of his tireless contributions. On the other hand, he stepped into the spotlight on several occasions, mainly with clutch jackals and vital offloads, like the ball he sent his skipper over with in the final.

5: Victor Sekekete (Cheetahs)

A pillar of strength, Sekekete turned the Cheetahs’ lineout into weapon X. As kingpin, he ran the set-piece with authority to make it both the perfect launch pad for the backline and the foundation for their devastating driving maul, while he was a disrupter of note on the opposition’s throw, poaching numerous balls. Got through a good amount of work around the park.

4: Aidon Davis (Cheetahs)

The other half of the most formidable lock pairing of the season, he was tremendous in the lineout too but it’s his overall influence that set him apart. A former back-rower, he offered the Cheetahs the best of both worlds – the work rate of a loose forward and the muscle and aggression of a No.4 lock. Won turnovers at the breakdown and flung a few fantastic long passes to put his teammates in.

3: Aranos Coetzee (Cheetahs)

While the season that started perfectly came to nought for the Cheetahs, it was a memorable one for Coetzee as he became the first Namibian to earn 100 caps for a South African team. A veteran of two World Cups and it showed. A dominant force at scrum time, carried strongly and very mobile on defence for a 34-year-old big man.

2: Louis van der Westhuizen (Cheetahs)

Coetzee’s fellow Namibian international was a try-scoring machine, his 15 five-pointers almost double that of next-best De Klerk and Angelo Davids’ eight. Laser accurate with his lineout throwing to turn the Cheetahs’ driving maul into a recurring avalanche over the whitewash and was rambunctious in general play.

1: Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls)

Much like his fellow front-rowers, Gqoboka’s international class shone through. The Springbok brute was worth his weight in gold, not only because of his scrummaging prowess but as an experienced, calming figurehead as captain as well. Personified what the Currie Cup means to the Bulls with his warrior-like leading role in the 43-37 win over a full-strength Lions team that earned them a home semi-final.

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    Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at SARugby.com and senior staff writer at Rugby365.com, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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