The Bulls provide the bulk of our inaugural PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The coastal clash between the Stormers and Sharks got the competition off to an exciting start on Saturday afternoon at Cape Town Stadium, where the visitors came back from a 16-point deficit to eke out a 33-30 win in an entertaining and drama-filled affair that produced eight tries.
The Trans-Jukskei derby that followed wasn’t such a spectacle but the Bulls nevertheless got the job done at Loftus, pulling away in the final quarter to pick up a 24-9 win over the Lions. The Pretoria side also lead the way with six players in our side, with the Sharks, Stormers and Lions evenly split with three apiece.
15: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
Bolstered his hopes of a place in the Springbok squad for the British & Irish Lions series after surviving a hellacious mid-air collision with Seabelo Senatla. Such a smooth operator, he both blasted and weaved through the Stormers’ defence and made it look effortless. Was the Sharks’ best attacking weapon, varied his play expertly with stabbing kicks and was rock solid on defence.
14: Madosh Tambwe (Bulls)
A standout effort based on skill and will in equal measure. Tremendous work rate, an aspect of his game he continues to improve, and outstanding in the air. The Bulls’ most dangerous back on attack on the night, he deserved a try for his efforts, even though his disallowed dot down was the right decision. Made a telling tackle on Courtnall Skosan.
13: Wandisile Simelane (Lions)
The Lions’ lightning rod. Electric every time he touched the ball. Heavily involved and stepped several defenders. Not just dangerous but diverse as well, executing a clever grubber or two. All most fans will remember about Ruhan Nel’s performance was how he butchered what would’ve been the match-winning try, but he was good overall, creating the Stormers’ opening try by beating three defenders and having a try disallowed.
12: Rikus Pretorius (Stormers)
Cornal Hendricks was in the thick of the action and showed sublime distribution skills. Jeremy Ward was a defensive demon like usual, while Dan Kriel equipped himself well as Lions captain. Pretorius put it all together in the most complete performance at No.12. Punched it up on nine occasions, made nine tackles and scored one of the Stormers’ three tries.
11: Courtnall Skosan (Lions)
Little to shout about by the left-wingers, so much so that we considered switching Edwill van der Merwe to No.11 after a strong showing that he capped off with an exceptional mid-air try-assist to put the Stormers back in the game late. Skosan was the most active and consistent threat down the left flank.
10: Chris Smith (Bulls)
Kade Wolhuter was good from the get-go with his educated boot. Showed a willingness to take the ball to the line and skinned Fez Mbatha one-on-one to break the line and send Pretorius over before suffering a torn ACL. Fred Zeilinga impressed and Morné Steyn took control when he came on, but it was Smith who got the ball rolling for the Bulls. Broke two tackles to score the first seven-pointer, his goal-kicking was on point and he tidied up some sticky situations on defence.
9: André Warner (Lions)
Like Wolhuter, Herschel Jantjies was in good nick. He scored a try with textbook support play and brought opposite number Grant Williams down with a crucial ankle tap before limping off. Warner made a statement against his former team. Shifted gears smoothly on offence, kicked well and saved a try by sweeping and beating Bulls backs to dot down a chip in-goal.
8: Nizaam Carr (Bulls)
A workmanlike effort in which he led the Bulls with maturity. Influential in all areas. Pouncing to win a vital penalty in his 22 after a dangerous break by Simelane was the highlight of his evening. Willie Engelbrecht, meanwhile, showed the physicality he’s going to bring to the Stormers from the Pumas, setting the tone early. Unlucky times two to see yellow and then red for hits that were deemed dangerous.
7: Elrigh Louw (Bulls)
A barnstorming bruiser. Led the Bulls’ physical charge, which speaks to the 21-year-old’s ambition to carve out a prominent place for himself among the franchise’s Springbok-laden back-row ranks. Fantastic from the first minute to the last and was rewarded with a well-deserved try in the final play of the game. Special mention must be made of Pieter-Steph du Toit, who enjoyed a cracking comeback.
6: Nama Xaba (Stormers)
Siya Kolisi played a pivotal role in both of the Sharks’ first-half tries, but Xaba took the opportunity to go head-to-head with the Springbok skipper to put himself on the map. If you didn’t know, now you know – the 23-year-old is a specialist fetcher with a world of potential. Won a breakdown penalty near his try line on the 30-minute mark, another in his half five minutes later and a third in the Sharks’ 22 in the 70th minute, from where they eventually scored to close the gap to three. Made a team-high 13 tackles as well.
5: Reniel Hugo (Sharks) – Player of the Week
Emerged as the unlikely hero for the Sharks through endless endeavour. It’s not every day that a second-rower makes such a direct and drastic impact on the scoreboard. Hugo’s hunger is what fuelled his 13-minute hat-trick after half-time (time-stamped below), which changed the complexion of the game. Intense. Insatiable. Impressive.
4: Janko Swanepoel (Bulls)
JD Schickerling made a few big plays. His strong, direct carry set the platform for the opening try and he stole one of the Sharks’ lineouts in his half. Swanepoel was good in the set pieces and particularly impactful in open play. Physical, tireless and unfortunate to have his try disallowed after a determined leg drive due to a knock-on by Embrose Papier at the previous ruck.
3: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Aside from winning one scrum penalty, Frans Malherbe wasn’t his dominant self against the promising Ox Nche. Du Toit gave as good as he got against Steven Kitshoff in a Bok scrum battle that ended in a stalemate. It’s in general play where “The Tank” stood out, muscling over for a try and winning a crucial penalty on the floor on his 5m line in the 58th minute.
2: Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers)
Johan Grobbelaar had a satisfactory showing. His strong breakaway provided the momentum for the Bulls’ opening try but he did miss the target at an attacking 5m lineout. The ultra-consistent Ntubeni was spot-on with his lineout throwing and good across the park as well, notably swooping in like a hawk to earn the Stormers three points with a textbook breakdown penalty in the 19th minute.
1: Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls)
Leapfrogged all four of the starting looseheads with a massive cameo off the bench. Beast-like was the Bulls super-sub, breaking the game open when he sniped from a ruck and put Zak Burger over in the 65th minute to give the hosts some breathing room at 17-9. Another memorable carry saw him steamroll Emmanuel Tshituka, plus he won a key turnover.