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.
“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.
Outstanding all-round performance by Herschel Jantjies. Remember him scoring a simlar intercept try two weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/CJn4xVaUfr
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) February 1, 2020