Brilliant back-rowers are the stars of our South African European Champions Cup Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Sharks and Stormers had a Saturday to savour as they triumphed at home to book their place in the quarterfinals.
The Durbanites scored a dominant 50-35 win over Munster while the Capetonians claimed a 32-28 victory over Harlequins.
The Bulls were less fortunate on Sunday as they bowed out after a 33-9 away defeat to Toulouse.
Despite spirited showings from the likes of Ruan Nortje and Kurt-Lee Arendse, our team has an all-coastal flavour with eight Stormers and seven Sharks players earning selection.
15: Domian Willemse (Stormers)
Supreme athleticism to barrel roll and dot down in the nick of time in the corner. Infused speed and dynamism into the backline, racked up an unrivalled 85 metres, and served as a smooth link.
14: Werner Kok (Sharks)
Full of energy as always. Exploded into contact, making a memorable hit on Shane Daly, running for 71 metres, and scoring the pick of the Sharks’ tries.
13: Ruhan Nel (Stormers)
So strong on his feet. Acted as the cleaner, mopping up wayward passes and somehow bashing his way over the advantage line. Lukhanyo Am had a decent second half but is still some way off his best, missing four tackles.
12: Dan du Plessis (Stormers)
Strong on both sides of the ball to bring up his half-century for the Stormers. Punched the pill over the gain line and alternated well, running incisive lines to beat defenders and make 51 metres in eight carries. Put his body on the line on defence.
11: Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks)
The Sharks needed their Springboks to fire and Mapimpi provided the initial spark by carving through the defence to put Jaden Hendrikse in for his team’s first try before unleashing Kok for his with a cracking chicken wing offload. Rewarded for his efforts with a try of his own.
10: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
Starting with a crosskick and a beautiful flat pass in the lead-up to Deon Fourie’s first try, Libbok expressed himself and oozed confidence as he piloted his team with aplomb, created a try for Willemse and outshone Marcus Smith.
9: Herschel Jantsjie (Stormers)
Had a handle on the flow of the game, understanding when to push the pace and when to go to the boot like the pinpoint box kick that almost resulted in a try for Suleiman Hartzenberg.
8: Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Sharks)
Showed his worth as a starter following a string of good cameos off the bench. Ran over defenders, dogged at the breakdown, where he won a turnover with strong counter-rucking, and a safe rear-guard under the high ball to bag the Man of the Match award.
7: Ben-jason Dixon (Stormers)
The hard edge and unsung hero who spearheaded the Stormers’ resolute defensive effort (aside from the last 10 minutes, which happens to be when Dixon signed off). Made no less than 16 tackles, more than one being try-savers
6: Deon Fourie (Stormers) – Player Of The Week
A hard-nosed spitfire. Good gas to canter in the opening try, pin-balled over for his second on the 30-minute mark, made a try-saving stop on Will Evans, and feasted on the floor in a vintage Man of the Match performance.
5: Gerbrandt Grobler (Sharks)
His underappreciated class came to the fore as the calm conductor of the lineout after the Sharks lost both Eben Etzebeth and Emile van Heerden through injury. Even poached two of Munster’s throw-ins and made a team-high 11 tackles.
4: Ernst van Rhyn (Stormers)
A more than satisfactory way to celebrate his 50th cap. Was all about the donkey work, grafting exceptionally hard including making 14 tackles and winning a turnover.
3: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Lived up to his “Tank” nickname at scrum time and in open play. Made valuable metres post-contact, counter-rucked like a hungry grizzly, grabbed two overthrows in the lineout, and was a cornerstone of the driving maul.
2: Bongani Mbonambi (Sharks)
Recovered from a shaky start with a vital third-quarter performance that saw him power over for two tries to take the game away from Munster.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Pure power. Sat down RG Snyman during one of his several big carries, made dominant tackles, delivered a textbook jackal and ruled in the scrums.