Evergreen Cheetahs enigma Frans Steyn headlines our South African Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Two near-upsets in the ninth round of the Currie Cup made for strong competition for places in our team.
The Lions were moments away from registering their first win of the season only for a last-gasp try by Ashlon Davids to break their hearts as Griquas snatched a 23-17 win at Wits University on Thursday.
The Cheetahs then had to dig deep on Good Friday to stay unbeaten as they clawed their way back from 14 points down to clinch a 28-21 win over Western Province in Cape Town.
The final match of the weekend between the Sharks and the Bulls that was scheduled to take place in Durban on Saturday was cancelled due to the floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
Springbok legend Steyn is our Player of the Week and one of six Cheetahs selected. The Lions have four representatives, Griquas three and Western Province two.
15: Tristan Leyds (Western Province)
Scored a scintillating solo try and architected another with a pinpoint crosskick. Edged Tiaan Swanepoel, who scored 12 of the Lions’ 17 points through a try, two conversions and a penalty goal but made a few costly mistakes.
14: Hansen Hartzenberg (Griquas)
Made the most of his opportunities and chased hard. Pure pace to outsprint a pair of Lions for a long-range counter-attacking try, skinned Zeilinga Strydom with fancy footwork to break away later on and made a great try-saving tackle on Jaco Visagie.
13: Sango Xamlashe (Griquas)
An eye-catching performance. Turned defence into attack with a remarkable rip to snatch the ball out of lock Junior White’s hands and crucially passed early to enable gas man Hartzenberg to canter in (time-stamped below).
12: Frans Steyn (Cheetahs) – Player Of The Week
An immense contributor. Blasted over the gain line at will, one such power carry providing the momentum for the opening try. A slick sleight of hand to send David Brits over for another, gained telling extra ground with booming kicks into the corners, held up Tim Swiel to win a turnover, scrummed down at flank when the Cheetahs were down to 14 men and caught Province off-guard with a wily quick and low restart that rolled into touch to bag another Man of the Match award.
11: Angelo Davids (Western Province)
A threat every time he touched the ball. Even more impressive, though, was his work off the ball, which earned him his try when he went sideline to sideline to run onto fellow flyer Sergeal Petersen’s pop pass to score (time-stamped below).
10: George Whitehead (Griquas)
His experience shone through in the way he controlled the game. His boot was a real weapon; kicked 100% off the tee and outstanding out of hand, capped by a brilliant 50:22. Kept defenders guessing by taking the ball to the line.
9: Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs)
The stalwart’s leadership stuck out. Kept his team calm when they trailed by two scores and made the right captaincy calls. Slotted all four of his kicks at goal, crisp with his distribution and forced a turnover by holding up Leyds.
8: Jarod Cairns (Lions)
Excellent in every department. Led the charge with seven carries, second only to the next man in our side with eight tackles and won a textbook jackal five metres from his tryline in the 23rd minute.
7: Sibusiso Sangweni (Lions)
Worked his tail off. Covered acres of space in a sterling defensive display that saw him make a match-high 11 tackles and win a breakdown penalty. Similarly, worked hard in contact to earn extra metres with ball in hand.
6: Gideon van der Merwe (Cheetahs)
Had a great head-to-head battle with Nama Xaba, whom he stripped of the ball on one occasion. Secured key turnovers in his 22 in both halves but sealed his place when he made a try-saving tackle on Bobby Alexander and shot right back up to win a penalty in the 75th minute.
5: Cal Smid (Lions)
A champion in the lineout, where he poached a couple on Griquas’ throw-in. A pillar on defence, both around the ruck and in the mauls, seized a ruck turnover shortly after half-time and punched the pill up manfully.
4: Aidon Davis (Cheetahs)
From an early lineout steal to flinging Leyds to the ground in the final minute, the industrious Cheetahs lock made his mark. His direct opponent Ben-Jason Dixon was good as well, poaching a lineout on his 5m line and having a few deft touches on attack.
3: Carlu Sadie (Lions)
One of the United Rugby Championship stars the Lions roped in and his difference in class showed. Dominant at scrum time and put in great work at the breakdown, winning turnovers with tremendous counter-rucking.
2: Louis nav der Westhuizen (Cheetahs)
Haak Vrystaat! Fantastic all-around outing. Accurate with his lineout throwing, strong in the scrums and scored a brace to move to the top of the try-scoring list.
1: Alulutho Tshakweni (Cheetahs)
As good in general play as he was powerful in the scrums. Won a vital turnover on his tryline and scored his first Currie Cup try. Like Whitehead, he was the unlucky recipient of a yellow card when the Cheetahs were on a team warning.