The Bulls provide the bulk of our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The men from Pretoria came alive after a slow start to put Zebre to the sword in Parma, scoring six tries in their 45-7 rout, before an understrength and struggling Lions side showed great guts and nearly picked up a bonus point in their 21-13 loss to log leaders Leinster in Friday night’s other fixture in Dublin.
On Saturday, the Stormers were unlucky to succumb 19-17 to Connacht in gusty Galway while the Sharks triumphed 29-7 over Benetton in Treviso to shoot to the top of the South African Shield.
The Bulls boast seven representatives in our side, which further includes four Lions, three Stormers stars and one Sharks standout.
15: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
Took a licking and kept on ticking in an electrifying performance. Lethal from the back, had Zebre defenders grasping at air all evening and scored a blinder, bamboozling Antonio Rizzi with his fancy footwork. Had a key hand in Embrose Papier’s try and linked up particularly well with Cornal Hendricks. Finished with a match-high 119 metres and three clean breaks.
14: Stean Pienaar (Lions)
Rowdy was the Lions winger. Scratched and clawed and won extra yards less determined men wouldn’t have, running for a team-high 84 metres. Would have scored if not for an exceptional cover tackle from Tommy O’Brien.
13: Lionel Mapoe (Bulls)
Ran rampant, from the first line break that ended in a disallowed try to creating a cracking try for Papier with a gliding break and outstanding one-handed offload to scoring himself and sitting down Junior Laloifi. Quick to his feet to contest after making a tackle.
12: Damian Willemse (Stormers)
Dan du Plessis’ late withdrawal proved to be a blessing in disguise as Willemse took centre stage in commanding fashion. Mr Momentum on the attack, providing a try assist and scoring an opportunistic try, twisting and stretching over to give the Stormers the half-time lead. Fast hands and clever grubber into touch in the 22 when they were down to 14 men. Stonewall on defence in his channel and made a few crucial cover tackles.
11: Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)
With no No.11 stepping up, we opted to reward Nkosi for the good work he put in on the right-wing. Soaring win of a contestable kick led to Aphelele Fassi’s try and crucially cashed in with his pace and power, a strong hand-off seeing him score the bonus-point try at the death. Added a deft grubber for his fullback to chase too.
10: Chris Smith (Bulls)
Jake White could hardly have asked for more from Smith in the absence of the suspended Morne Steyn. A perfect seven out of seven off the tee for 15 points. Excellent kicking out of hand, highlighted by a great 50:22 that resulted in a try, made two breaks and posted team-high numbers in defenders beaten (4) and offloads (3).
9: Embrose Papier (Bulls)
In the zone. Executed all his duties with distinction. Read the game expertly, marrying vision and skill to put Mapoe in untouched with a beautiful bullet pass after he’d scored a top try himself through textbook support play. Made an important cover tackle on Jacopo Trulla as well. Special mention must be made of gutsy Lions livewire Morne van den Berg.
8: Elrigh Louw (Bulls) – Player of the Week
A colossal complete performance. Asserted his dominance right away by steamrolling a would-be tackler from the kick-off. Ate up metres, including from the back of the scrum, did ultra-strong ruck work, boasted a 100% tackle completion rate, featured in the lineouts and produced a stunning back-flick to put Arendse away and cement himself as the Man of the Match.
7: Arno Botha (Bulls)
An 18-wheeler with a Porsche engine. Put pedal to the metal from start to finish. One of the main men in the overwhelming bully ball brand of rugby the Bulls unleashed, powered over for the bonus-point try and won a breakdown penalty in the 54th minute.
6: Jaco Kriel (Lions)
Captain courageous. Lambasted his team’s lack of desire over the last few weeks and led by example to inspire a spirited team performance. Despite knowing defeat was all but inevitable, he put his body on the line and turned in team-high successful carries (6) and tackles (13). Made a try-saving stop over the line and was rewarded with a try at the death.
5: Marvin Orie (Stormers)
The ultimate workhorse. Covered the field like a loose forward. In fact, he outworked even the back-rowers with an unrivalled 18 hits, his tackle technique matching his outrageous output. Won two turnovers, the first in a maul on his 5m line and the second in the lineout in the 68th minute. The pillar and communicator of the rumbling attacking maul.
4: PJ Steenkamp (Lions)
Ruben van Heerden was super energetic and did well to score the Sharks’ opening try, rolling out of contact and rumbling over, but his afternoon was cut short by injury. Walt Steenkamp managed to poach a lineout, while David Meihuizen made a massive impact off the bench. In the end, PJ won out for his all-action outing, which included five carries and 12 tackles.
3: Carlu Sadie (Lions)
You don’t see Leinster manhandled in the scrums. You just don’t. That’s why it was such a sight to behold as Sadie smashed the top team in Europe time and time again. An unstoppable force, made an early statement by winning a monster scrum penalty and squeezed out two more in the 20th and 42nd minutes.
2: Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)
Full of hustle and bustle. Very impressive work rate, made some determined leg driving carries and did well to stay in field to score the Bulls’ first try from a driving maul.
1: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)
A monster shift from the Stormers skipper. The conditions brought out his biggest strength, which is his remarkable mobility. Bankable ball carrier, industrious defender, had a big influence at the breakdown and mauls and put Connacht under the cosh at scrum time, winning a penalty in each half.