10 February 2020, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld
SA Super Rugby Team of the Week – Round 2
Sharks stars feature prominently in our South African Team of the Week after their heroics in Dunedin on Friday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Durban side set the tone for what would be a successful second round for South African teams, kicking off their Australasian tour on a perfect note with a stunning 42-20 win over the Highlanders. Six of the key figures in the terrific triumph have been included in our team.
A handful of Stormer’s have also cracked the nod following their ninth-straight win over traditional rivals the Bulls. The hosts’ impregnable defence earned them an unprecedented second successive shutout as they blanked the Bulls 13-0 in the final North-South derby at Newlands on Saturday.
The Lions‘ 27-20 win over the Reds in their first home game on Saturday was as ugly as it was crucial, but as the cliché goes, a win is a win, and the men from Johannesburg will be more than pleased with the result after their disappointing first-round blowout in Buenos Aires. They and the Bulls both have two representatives in our team.
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Retained his place in our team with an 80-minute showcase of why he’s earmarked as a future Springbok. Fantastic in every facet – positional play, decision-making, kicking off the left boot, under the high ball, defensively (even winning a turnover) and joining the line and was rewarded with a double in the last 10 minutes. Great shimmy off the right foot to score the first and excellent pick-up and hand-off to score the second. Posted South African round-high numbers of 107 metres, four clean breaks and seven defenders beaten.
Like Fassi, Lion’s dynamo dazzled and showed why he’s widely regarded as a Springbok in the making. Always on the move, always injecting himself in the action, he was a constant thorn in the Reds’ side and was rewarded with a brace. Good vision to call on his captain to stab a grubber in-goal for his first Super Rugby try and left tighthead Taniela Tupou for dead with a quick step for his second. All in all, he made two line breaks, beat five defenders and ran for a team-high 64 metres in nine carries.
There was little to choose from between Nel and Lukhanyo Am. The Sharks skipper was his usual excellent self on defence, making all six of his tackles and winning two turnovers to make his 50th appearance a triumphant one. In a slow, scrappy and uneventful clash, Nel was the game-changer as his quick tap late in the first half sparked the Stormers to life and eventually led to the opening try, which he and midfield partner Jamie Roberts had a hand in as they lent their muscle to the driving maul. Beat three defenders and made 31 metres in four runs and made a key hit on Warrick Gelant just after the hour mark.
Another tough call as André Esterhuizen was excellent for the Sharks. In his first North-South derby, however, Roberts showed an understanding of the bone-crunching physicality the rivalry’s based upon and stepped up as the backline bruiser of the hosts. Showing exactly why he was handpicked as Damian de Allende’s successor, the Welsh veteran put his body on the line, made a backline-high eight tackles and ripped the ball free in an early collision.
On hand to finish off as always, banking a quick-fire brace to turn the match on its head before half-time. Ran good lines, chased well and was good in the air. Got caught out on defence a few times, it must be said, but his teammates were quick to jump in. Courtnall Skosan deserves a special mention for wiggling through to score at a crucial time for the Lions.
A real composed and polished performance. Whereas there are some rumblings over Damian Willemse’s future at flyhalf after the weekend, Bosch certainly looks comfortable at 10. His tactical kicking was good, he did some real damage as a back-stop return punter with his booming right boot and, more importantly, he slotted all but one of his kicks at goal to drive the Sharks’ superiority home.
The Lions rookie made the most of his first start. Full of energy and enthusiasm, which he channelled well and showed why coach Ivan van Rooyen compared him to a young Faf de Klerk. Stuck on opposite number Tate McDermott like glue, most notably catching him ball and all to win a 5m scrum in the 29th minute, made a few darts to keep the visitors guessing and provided good service.
Showed the form that saw him earn six Springbok caps in 2018. Reinvigorated and remarkable across the park, he was the key man in both of Mapimpi’s tries, throwing two beautiful offloads in contact to set off the scores. Flawless on defence, including making two telling cover tackles in the Sharks’ 22, the first on opposite number Marino Mikaele Tu’u in the first half and the other on Jona Nareki in the second.
Hailed as “the real Thor” by ex-Springbok Gcobani Bobo on commentary and indeed looked near superhuman with his tireless work rate and physicality. Grew stronger as the bruising battle went on and really stepped up as a leader in the final quarter. In a second successive Stormers defensive masterclass, it was he who led the charge with a match-high 11 hits, and he won a turnover for good measure.
Had a good debut for his new franchise last week, but put himself on the map with his prolific performance in Dunedin. The Sharks have been a different animal at the breakdown this season and the former Lions fetcher is the reason why. The first of his two turnovers earned his team their first points in the 11th minute and halted the Highlanders’ good start. Hands down the top tackler with a match-high 15 hits and showed exceptional pace to canter in his first try for the Sharks from 45m out. He shaded Lion’s livewire Marnus Schoeman, who turned in a typically all-action outing.
Often an unsung hero and the clash in Dunedin was one of those times. Turned in an excellent defensive display, stealing a crucial lineout inside the Sharks’ 22 in the 18th minute and another with four minutes remaining, which highlighted both his conditioning and commitment, and made eight tackles, second only to Venter. Marvin Orie deserves a mention as well after he ran the Lions’ best weapon, the maul, like clockwork, ruled the skies and showed some soft hands as a link in open play.
Ruben Van Heerden and Ruben Schoeman pushed for our No.4 jersey but Moerat cracked the nod for his enforcer role in the Stormers’ win. It’s a new responsibility the former Junior Springbok captain is tasked with this season following Eben Etzebeth’s departure to France, and he packed quite a bunch against the old foe. Perhaps a tad hot-headed at times – which is understandable considering his inexperience in the role and that it was the North-South derby – but didn’t allow his aggression to spill over into scoring opportunities. Was the go-to man in the lineout as well, securing seven takes.
More than it being a top-class performance, it was his passion for the jersey and dogged determination that earned Nyakane his place in our team. Given that his World Cup was cut short through injury, no-one would’ve blamed him if he’d decided to err on the side of caution and leave the field when he ran into trouble early on, but instead, he bit the bullet and gave as good as he got against Steven Kitshoff with one good wheel before finally making way in the second half.
A fine example of the Stormers’ enviable depth, the all-around good guy filled the injured Bongi Mbonambi’s shoes with aplomb. His experience, class and renowned fighting spirit were on full display in the set-pieces and open play, earning him a try and the Man of the Match award.
A real pick your poison scenario. Gqoboka was the better scrummager, powering his way to two penalties (in the 12th and 26th minute respectively), while Kitshoff was the busier in open play, carrying strong (27m) and often (8). Because there was so much hype about the scrum battle, and so many scrums as it turned out, we went with the impressive Bulls brute.
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