16 March 2020, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld
SA Super Rugby Team of the Week – Round 7
Players who featured in Saturday’s highly-anticipated coastal clash between the Sharks and Stormers at Kings Park make up two-thirds of our South African Super Rugby Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Sharks consolidated their position at the top of the overall log with their hard-fought 24-14 win over the visitors and also netted seven places in our side, while the Stormers returned to Cape Town with three representatives in our team.
A week after picking up their first win of the season, the Bulls were brought back to earth with a crushing 41-17 defeat to the Reds on the first stop of their Australasian tour in Brisbane, despite leading 17-0 early on. Regardless of the implosion, individual players put their hands up and a handful of Bulls earned spots in our team.
As a result, not a single Lions player made the cut after they were blown away 43-10 by the Blues in Auckland – the embattled Johannesburg team’s third tour trampling on the trot.
ALSO READ: SA SUPER RUGBY TEAM – ROUND 5Like last week, both Fassi and Warrick Gelant were outstanding. The Bulls fullback’s passing game looked as good as it’s ever been, which along with his vision had a big hand in Rosko Specman’s try and earned him one as well. In 17 runs, he accumulated 91 metres while beating a defender and making two line breaks.
Fassi’s game-breaking qualities came to the fore yet again in the coastal clash, with the red-hot rising star slicing straight through the Stormers’ defence to draw first blood after 25 minutes. He got bloodied up but rolled with the proverbial punches, running great lines throughout to rack up a South African round-high 100 metres in 17 runs.Divan Rossouw made metres every time he touched the ball, Jamba Ulengo had a good, hard-working outing that included a few valuable runs and a turnover just outside the Lions’ 22, while Dillyn Leyds never really got going. Nkosi’s work rate was impeccable for the second week in a row. He chased hard and contested well in the air, but his biggest contribution came with 13 minutes left on the clock when he won a penalty on the deck (one of two), which Curwin Bosch slotted to regain the lead for the hosts. Well-marked on attack, he made 20 metres in four runs while beating a defender.The Sharks captain was once again a defensive dynamo. His mastering of the art, in the most difficult position of all, was a key factor even if it possibly flew under the radar of the casual fan. He made his presence felt right away, securing a textbook turnover in the fourth minute, and crucially defused a dangerous situation when he pounced on the ball at ruck time just before half-time to turn over possession. He offered some good touches on attack as well.A strong candidate for Player of the Week honours, Esterhuizen was a dominant force. The Springbok brute is a different type of athlete, stronger and more explosive than many loose forwards with the speed, smarts and skills of a back, all of which were on display in the Durban derby. Jean-Luc du Plessis will not soon forget being mauled by the midfield monster, which saw him limp off in agony in the 19th minute. There were no openings in the centre channels, which restricted Esterhuizen to 19 metres in 11 runs, but he still managed to break four tackles to give the Sharks go-forward. He executed two good grubbers too boot, one of which should’ve resulted in a try but was botched by the usually bankable Makazole Mapimpi (he’s human after all).The Blitzbok flyer picked up where he left off last week, producing another electrifying effort. Over the last fortnight, there’s been a clear (and overdue) shift in the Bulls’ offence to create space for the speedster to wield some Specmagic and he’s making the most of every opportunity. There’s no substitute for speed – and dancing feet – which he showed so thrillingly with his lethal acceleration, step inside and pass to put Gelant away, after having visited the tryline himself. He clocked up 83 metres in eight runs, which included three line breaks and beating three defenders. He also snatched an intercept to save a potential try in the first quarter.Cometh the hour, cometh Curwin Bosch. The mental strength he showed to block out having missed two earlier kicks at goal and step up to take a long-range shot with the game on a knife-edge was as impressive as the monster kick itself that sailed over to give the Sharks the lead in the 68th minute. Those nerves of steel allowed him to convert another clutch penalty seven minutes later to stretch the lead to five. His game management was top-class, highlighted by the drop-goal that nudged the Sharks in front at the break, and it was his delayed pass that put Fassi in for his try.Papier produced the quality of a performance that saw him break out and become a Springbok in 2018. There’s a chemistry between him and like-minded Manie Libbok that saw both offence-orientated playmakers play well. He scored a good scrumhalf try with a sniping break from close quarters and danced past a couple of defenders in the 16th minute (four in all). His service was good, his box-kicking satisfactory and his drop-goal attempt from 45m out wasn’t bad either. He was alert and effective on defence as well, snuffing out a lineout move in the 31st minute.Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been the talk of the town this season and rightly so. The forgotten Springbok’s resurgence at the Sharks has been nothing short of sensational and much of the pre-match focus was on the No.8 coming up against his former franchise for the first time. The Sharks lacked the flow that has made them so dangerous this season and, thus, Notshe didn’t have the freedom and opportunity to make a major impact on the day.
Augustus seized the day. He exhibited the punishing physicality that made him such a tour de force at junior level as well as showcased a high-level rugby IQ and top-class skillset in open play to create both of his team’s tries. He sparked Herschel Jantjies’ try with a brilliant counter-attack and ran a fantastic line to storm away like an 18-wheeler before throwing a perfectly-timed inside pass to send Paul de Wet over.
Not the most athletically-built baller, hence the nickname Trokkie, he showed a great gas tank in the Durban heat, making an unrivalled 14 tackles (without slipping one) and won a breakdown penalty in the 59th minute. This is exactly the prolific performance, which earned him the Man of the Match award despite being on the losing side (a rarity) the former World Rugby Under-20 Player of the Year needed to send a message that he’s ready to break out on the senior stage.This was one of the most difficult decisions of the week, not because of healthy, high standard competition but due to ill-discipline and inaccuracy. Ruan Vermaak looked good for the Lions, especially with his carry and offload being key in Dan Kriel’s try, but then he went and conceded a penalty try and a yellow card for knocking the ball down from an offside position in the red zone. Johan du Toit should’ve seen red instead of yellow for his moment of madness and was excluded as a result. Tyler Paul cost the Sharks a golden opportunity when he knocked on in the attacking 22 in the 47th minute and slipped as many tackles as he made, leaving Strauss with his three carries and four hits (without missing any) as our lucky No.7.Van Staden showed out at Suncorp Stadium. This performance is proof of why the Bulls flank is so highly regarded and why he probably would’ve had far more than three Test caps to his name had it not been for the injuries that have significantly stunted his rise. He made a whopping 19 tackles, far and away the most by a South African player in Round Seven, and won three penalties with his breakdown brilliance. He also made the second-most carries for his team (behind Gelant) with 11.For the second straight week, the Bulls rookie stood out with his beaming hunger to make a name for himself and elevate the battling Bulls. Like Van Staden, Nortje gave his absolute all, making the second-most tackles behind the industrious opensider with 14. He was a key man in the lineouts (three takes) and mauls as well and carried the ball six times.Veteran Willem Alberts was very busy, especially early on, making several carries, tackles and securing lineout balls. The Bone Collector looks better suited at lock at this stage of his decorated career. On the opposite side of the spectrum, 22-year-old Moerat continued to shine in the Stormers second-row. The former Junior Springbok captain is coming on strong this season and made an impressive 12 tackles at the Shark Tank, bettered only by Augustus. What’s more, he won a turnover in open play, made a vital lineout steal in his 22 in the seventh minute and hit the ball up on three occasions.Du Toit deserves a ton of credit for his remarkable fitness. In the searing Durban heat and humidity, the 136kg behemoth was as powerful and dynamic at the death as he was in the first quarter. The way he dominated at scrum time in the final 10 minutes was monstrous, winning a penalty in the 74th minute and then spearheading a heel against the head from which Mapimpi scored to sew up the win. He’d won an initial penalty, at the breakdown, in the 15th minute, and made eight carries as well.The Sharks hooker enhanced his growing reputation as a hard grafter going up against Scarra Ntubeni. Van Vuuren fired upfront and was the Durbanites’ busiest defender, completing all seven of his hits. Ball in hand, he made a breakaway on one of his four carries for a total of 23 metres, the joint-most by a Sharks forward along with loose forward James Venter.He was the Stormers’ captain fantastic once again. The red-haired conqueror gave the Capetonians the early edge at scrum time, squeezing a penalty out of the Sharks in the third minute, and when he was forced off through injury at the death, the Stormers scrum disintegrated. As always, he threw his considerable weight around in general play and in the 65th minute, he applied pressure at a ruck that resulted in a turnover.