Evergreen Ruan Pienaar added to his legend and is one of six Cheetahs in our Currie Cup Team of the Tournament, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Pienaar played a pivotal role for the Free Staters all season, shifted from scrumhalf to flyhalf to get them out of a late regular season slump and scored 10 points in their 25-17 win over the Pumas in Saturday’s final in Bloemfontein.
The 88-Test Springbok and Cheetahs MVP is our Player of the Tournament and is joined by five of his triumphant teammates. The rest of our team consist of three Pumas, three Sharks, a pair of Bulls and a Griquas standout.
15: Devon Williams (Pumas)
A veteran star on the domestic stage, Williams played a key role in the Pumas’ success with his playmaking prowess and educated left boot. A strike weapon of note, he finished as the joint-top-try-scorer of the season with seven touchdowns.
14: Yaw Penxe (Sharks)
There’s no substitute for hard work, which is what Penxe put in week in and week out. Driven to return to the heights that saw him included in the wider Springbok squad for the British & Irish Lions series, he thrilled but, more importantly, was in perpetual motion.
13: Diego Appollis (Pumas)
An exciting talent with major upside, Appollis shone in his final season in Nelspruit. The hot-stepping 22-year-old scored six tries, set up many more and stood strong on defence, all of which saw him being snapped up by the Sharks.
12: Ali Mgijima (Pumas)
Seemingly a student of the Trevor Halstead school of tackling, Mgijima delivered a brutal body of work, making ball carriers regret running down his channel. He was influential on attack as well and coolly dotted down in the decider. He’s another big loss for the Pumas as he’s on his way to the Cheetahs.
11: David Kriel (Bulls)
Tall, fast and athletic, Kriel contributed across the board, using his speed and long wingspan to score a joint-tournament-leading seven tries, his height to dominate aerial battles and his size to shut down his wing on defence.
10: Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs) – Player of the Tournament
At 39, the decorated general used his steely calmness and worldly experience to pilot the Cheetahs back to the Promised Land and add another accolade to his remarkable honour roll. Whether at scrumhalf or flyhalf, Pienaar pulled the strings with aplomb and was a sharpshooter off the tee, racking up the second-most points of the competition (124).
9: Rewan Kruger (Cheetahs)
A former South African Under-20 star, Kruger started to live up to his potential this season as Pienaar’s protégé. Now 25, he displayed a high-quality, well-rounded skillset as well as newfound confidence and rock-solid temperament, which saw him cap off a good season by scoring a try in the final.
8: Friedle Olivier (Cheetahs)
For many, this was an introductory season to the human sledgehammer that is Olivier, a former Valke ace who also had a stint in Russia, and he made a big impression. A runaway freight train with ball in hand, it usually took two men to bring him down.
7: Hanru Sirgel (Griquas)
The heart and soul of Griquas, Sirgel was a supercharged workhorse whose determination was unmatched. The Peacock Blues skipper lifted his team with inspired, nonstop endeavour on both sides of the ball.
6: Gideon van der Merwe (Cheetahs)
A tough, tenacious bloodhound, the Cheetahs fetcher sniffed out and seized the ball brilliantly all season. The workingman warrior was immense on defence as well, tackling tirelessly, and also found his way to the try line on a few occasions.
5: Victor Sekekete (Cheetahs)
A tower of strength, it was a season of great growth and milestones for the Cheetahs captain as he brought up his 50 in the 26-21 win over Western Province in Bloemfontein and went on to lift the Currie Cup aloft.
4: Corne Rahl (Sharks)
There’s considerable buzz about Rahl after his sensational first full Currie Cup season and rightly so. The Junior Springbok put a stamp on the competition with his dynamism and desire and undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him.
3: Hencus van Wyk (Cheetahs)
The well-travelled tighthead was colossal for the Cheetahs, powering their journey back to the summit of South African rugby with strong scrummaging and bullish ball carries and made an impact as a burly poacher at the breakdown as well.
2: Fez Mbatha (Sharks)
Mbatha has long been viewed as a future Springbok and did his green and gold ambitions the world of good with a standout season. The 23-year-old threw daggers in the lineout, was generally explosive and joined Williams and Kriel as the tournament’s top try-scorer.
1: Gerhard Steenekamp (Bulls)
The 128kg Bulls brute was a dominant force at scrum time, a bulldozer who took no prisoners and provided the perfect platform for the men from Pretoria. Busy in open play as well, he was rewarded for his hard work with a try of a lifetime against Griquas.