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Rainbow Cup SA Team of the Week – Round 5

Magic men Makazole Mapimpi and Edwill van der Merwe lead the way in our PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Rainbow Cup Best Players

Magic men Makazole Mapimpi and Edwill van der Merwe lead the way in our PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The penultimate round of the competition kicked off in thrilling fashion as the Bulls snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against the Stormers in a titanic North-South derby at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night to cement their place at the top of the table.

Coming away with a full five log points in their last-gasp 31-27 win, the Pretoria side had one foot on the plane for the final on June 19 in Treviso, where the top-ranked teams of the two-legged tournament will battle for bragging rights. The Sharks, however, ensured the local competition will go down to the wire as they secured a 33-21 bonus-point win over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Before the Bulls and Sharks meet in a local decider in Durban this weekend, we reward the standout players of the fifth round with places in our Team of the Week.

15: Damian Willemse (Stormers)

Looked to have shaken off the salary drama. Assured under the high ball and awesome on attack. Good chasing and presence of mind earned him an early try and his distribution was top-class, be it bullet long balls or perfectly-timed pop passes. Added an extra gear whenever he slotted in at first receiver and switched to playing field position well in the final 10 minutes.

14: Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers)

Continued his exceptional form with another Cheslin Kolbe-esque performance to come away with the Man of the Match award. Immediately into the action as he nearly regained the kick-off and remained a thorn in the hosts’ side in the air and on attack. Sparked the opening try by hacking the ball ahead and showing good appreciation of the laws over an under pressure David Kriel and scored two terrific tries in tight spaces (time-stamped below). Simply had to be included, thus the switch to right-wing ahead of Madosh Tambwe, who had another good game.

13: Werner Kok (Sharks)

The regular wing slotted in seamlessly at outside centre. In the thick of the action was the human tornado, exploding off the line to provide go-forward ball and stop runners behind the gain line. The Blitzbok showcased one of his greatest strengths, supreme determination, as he fought for extra inches in contact and made a try-saving tackle on EW Viljoen.

12: Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

A juggernaut in midfield, even running Pieter-Steph du Toit off his feet. Now that’s a feather in the cap! Racked up metres with one barnstorming run after the other, executed a classy grubber off his left boot to pin the Stormers in their 22 and played his outside backs into space with good distribution. A great final message to the Springbok coaches but, alas, he missed out on selection due to “legal issues” between him and SA Rugby.

11: Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks) – Player of the Week

Back from Japan in a big way! Looked on another plane than the rest as he lit up Ellis Park with exhilarating explosiveness. Sat down Courtnall Skosan to burst free and create a try for Phepsi Buthelezi and danced past four Lions to score a great individual try. All in all, he beat a dozen defenders to signal his return in phenomenal fashion.

10: Tim Swiel (Stormers)

An assured performance. Good tactically, started and finished a memorable try and had a personal tally of 12 points. Morné Steyn wasn’t at his best, Jordan Hendrikse impressed once again, while Manie Libbok brought an attacking edge to the Sharks, slicing clean through on one occasion and deftly chipping over the line for Marius Louw to collect out of the air. Uncanny in his ability to kick equally well with both feet, won a turnover at the breakdown and made an important tackle on Burger Odendaal.

9: Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks)

Had a good back-and-forth battle with André Warner, who drew first blood with a quick tap try and held up Ntuthuko Mchunu over the try line. The Lions scrumhalf, however, was often slow to arrive at and/or clear from rucks. Hendrikse was quick, accurate and lethal. Produced a cool and classy try assist for Buthelezi, pilled the pressure on Warner at the base of the scrum and his box kicking was spot on.

8: Evan Roos (Stormers)

A coming of age of sorts. The 21-year-old took everything the terrifying Bulls back rowers threw at him and kept on coming like something out of a horror movie. Tenacious, tireless and skillful, his brilliant behind-the-back offload was the key pass in the lead-up to Van der Merwe’s second try. Won a maul turnover, a crucial breakdown penalty in his own 22 and poached one of the hosts’ lineouts with five minutes to go. Duane Vermeulen was in vintage form before he limped off in the 32nd minute.

7: Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers)

Yet another otherworldly display. Led the Stormers’ spirited defensive effort as he flung himself into no less than 37 tackles according to SA Rugby stats. Opposite number Elrigh Louw had a strong overall outing, which included a try, while stand-in Sharks captain Henco Venter played his heart out at Ellis Park.

6: Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)

A massive statement-making debut. All action and brutal in tandem with Vermeulen. An absolutely relentless and punishing ball-carrier, he wasted little time barging over for his first try for his new team, showed his good hands with an outstanding offload that put Kriel over (ultimately disallowed due to a prior forward pass) and immense on defence, which included a try-saving tackle on Rikus Pretorius. Confidently took over the captaincy from the injured Vermeulen and his all-or-nothing call to go for the win instead of a draw paid off.

5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)

A guts and glory display. His blood and sweat saved the Bulls tears as he stretched over in the trenches for the match-winning try in injury time. Was the go-to man in the lineouts and a workhorse in general play, where he made a galloping break in the first half, charged down a kick that led to Louw’s try and regained possession from a high ball.

4: Ruben Schoeman (Lions)

Edged Ruben van Heerden in a tit-for-tat battle. The hard edge of the Lions pack, he provided pummelling go-forward, was strong in the set pieces, clattered into rucks and made some massive hits, the best of the bunch being the bone-crunching tackle on Yaw Penxe. Van Heerden, for his part, was held up over the try line, managed a lineout steal and made some good carries.

3: Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)

Made a massive impact off the bench. A huge shove provided the momentum that led to the first try after half-time that closed the gap to 17-14 and another, along with Jacques van Rooyen, got the last-gasp comeback rolling. Made a memorable half break and offloaded in the tackle as well.

2: Kerron van Vuuren (Sharks)

Scored a double and was flawless with his lineout throwing, which saw him selected ahead of Johan Grobbelaar. With the Bulls trailing after failing to turn their first-half dominance into points, Grobbelaar’s eight-minute brace after the break was crucial, giving them the reward they required and the lead. However, his lineout throwing went off the boil in the latter stages.

1: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)

A scrummaging titan for the second week in a row. Tormented Trevor Nyakane, something very few players have managed to do, and got through plenty of work across the park. Ox Nche, meanwhile, made a strong case for a Springbok recall with a dominant display of his own at scrum time in the first half, earning three penalties, and did well to stretch over for the opening try.

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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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