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SA Super Rugby Team of the Week – Round 1

SA Super Rugby Team of the Week - Round 1

03 February 2020, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

SA Super Rugby Team of the Week – Round 1

Coastal sides the Sharks and Stormers started the landmark 25th season of Super Rugby on a winning note at the weekend.

Kicking off the action from a South African perspective, the Sharks snapped a nine-match winless streak against the Bulls with a hard-fought 23-15 victory in Durban on Friday night.

Also at home, the Springbok-laden Stormers made their title intentions clear as they romped to the rare feat of shutting out a New Zealand side on Saturday, hammering the Hurricanes 27-0.

The Lions, meanwhile, experienced a nightmare in the early hours of Sunday morning (South African time) as they were blown away 38-8 by last year’s losing finalists the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

Quintin van Jaarsveld selects his South African Team of the Week, with the dominant Stormers unsurprisingly providing the bulk of the players.

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“The Weekend Special” was the only real danger man who showcased attacking intent in the kick-heavy Durban derby, his counter-attacking break in the 12th minute being one of the highlights of the game. Ran for a team-high 99 metres and beat an unrivalled five defenders. Was excellent under the high ball as well in the swirling wind, which caused opposite number Warrick Gelant all sorts of problems.

Channelled his inner Black Panther when he pounced on Curwin Bosch’s crosskick to break the game open with the opening try right under Rosko Specman’s nose. It was lazy defence by the Bulls left-wing, but few would’ve had the reflexes and agility to capitalise as remarkably as Nkosi did. The Sharks flyer ran hard all night and scooped the Man of the Match award.

The former Blitzbok had a blinder. Impactful on both attack and defence, and was in the thick of the action throughout with his terrific work rate. Earned 46 metres with his powerful running and tracked back brilliantly to save what looked like a certain try after replacement scrumhalf Jamie Booth had intercepted. As influential as Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am was on defence (making a try-saving tackle of his own), he did slip three tackles and wasn’t as impressive as Nel on attack.

The Bulls captain well and truly led by example. Bar Gelant, with his ample time and space at fullback, no Bulls player made more carries than Burger (10). Relentlessly bashed the ball up in heavy traffic, made one break and executed a couple of clever chip kicks. Defensively, he limited the monstrous André Esterhuizen to just 15 metres in seven runs and snatched a turnover.

Coming off a fantastic World Cup, the speedster hit the ground running in the Sharks’ season opener. Made the most of his opportunities, carving out two clean breaks, beating two would-be tacklers and running for 43 metres. Continued his great synergy with skipper and Springbok teammate Am and executed a well-weighted grubber that forced Cornal Hendricks to collect and run into touch.

The Bulls’ Prodigal Son was pure class in his first Super Rugby game for the franchise since 2013. Shot the lights out (pun intended) and scored all 15 of the visitors’ points, including an educated drop-goal, to keep them in the match. Controlled the game with the boot – finding grass in the corners, freeing Specman with a crosskick and stabbing a grubber through for Hendricks that should’ve been a try. Also made a telling big hit on Fassi.

The star of the show at Newlands and our Player of the Week. In the space of a year, he’s gone from red-hot rookie to mature marshal, for as electric as he was, he was equally authoritative. He steered the ship with seniority that belies his experience, which was further emphasised when compared to his new halfback partner Damian Willemse’s nervy display. His tactical kicking was good, he showed great vision and pinpoint accuracy to put Sergeal Petersen over in the corner with a sublime crosskick and his alertness allowed him to snap up a wayward pass to run in a try of his own.

Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Josh Strauss enjoyed solid debuts for the Sharks and Bulls respectively, while Siya Kolisi led the Stormers with his usual class before limping off with a knee injury in the 24th minute. Massyn, however, was magnificent for the Lions. Showed good speed in his long breakaway run and offloaded at the perfect time to put André Warner over for the opening try, made 10 tackles and won a turnover just after half-time.

Picked up where he left off last year and showed why he’s the best player in the world with a standout effort on attack and defence. It’s the nuances of his performance that was particularly impressive – the athleticism he showed to save a couple of bad lineout throws, the pressure he put on TJ Perenara, on one occasion forcing the scrumhalf to hack the ball straight into touch 5m from his tryline, and the intercept he secured with his in-your-face relentlessness.

James Venter was energetic and effective in his Sharks debut, but it’s Coetzee who cracked the nod after he demonstrated a complete skillset against the Canes. Far and away the strongest and busiest Stormers ball-carrier, he made 70 metres in 11 runs, including two clean breaks, threw a brilliant chicken-wing offload to Petersen, was solid on defence and won a textbook turnover in the first half.

The returning Springbok second-rower’s experience was immediately apparent in the way he led the Bulls’ lineout. The visitors had a distinct advantage in the set-piece and forced the hosts into several errors. Kruger was both the brains and the brawn, poaching one on the Sharks’ throw while fielding four on the Bulls’. Won a turnover at the breakdown as well and made eight tackles.

A perfect start to the season for Moerat. The former Junior Springbok skipper hasn’t taken the leap to the senior ranks as well as he would’ve wanted since making his debut for the Stormers in 2018, so he would be well-pleased with what was a statement-making showing on Saturday. Shone on defence, winning a turnover in the 15th minute and making nine hits, second only to the next man in our line-up.

Like his teammate Du Toit, Malherbe took the momentum from his career-best year into the opening weekend of the 2020 season. Last year, at the World Cup, in particular, he silenced criticism of his work rate that had long been an albatross around his neck once and for all and he was outstanding in open play at the weekend, making a team-high 11 tackles in addition to anchoring the scrum. Shaded the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit, who got through a ton of work himself and secured three turnovers.

Selecting our hooker came down to their primary responsibility. The lesser-known Lion was spot-on with his lineout throwing, whereas the other local No.2s were all over the place. The two lineouts the Lions lost on Jansen’s watch was the result of good contesting by the Jaguares and a fumble by Marvin Orie. As soon as he was replaced, an overthrow cost the visitors a try, highlighting the significance of the accuracy and consistency Jansen had brought to the table. Also made the most tackles of the four South African hookers with seven.

Steven Kitshoff had a good outing, which included a try. Whereas he was a cog in a dominant pack, Smith did most of the heavy lifting for the Lions (with a fire in his eyes). The promising loosehead won two scrum penalties, the first two minutes into the match was particularly beastly, and he was outstanding on defence, where his try-saving tackle on Bautista Delguy was one of nine hits.

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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 and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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