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SA United Rugby Championship Team of the Week – Round 1

The incomparable Marcell Coetzee leads the stampede in our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The incomparable Marcell Coetzee leads the stampede in our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Bulls’ captain fantastic was colossal in his team’s 31-15 triumph over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, the first and only fixture of the opening round of the new season that involved South African sides.

Bulls players make up two-thirds of our team, with a handful of Lions acknowledged for their work in a losing effort.

15: Wandisile Simelane (Bulls)

While his surprising selection at fullback revealed a few fundamental shortcomings, the regular midfielder loved the extra time and space and caused plenty of problems with his fancy feet (beating three defenders) and ball skills. Started well with a 50:22 that ultimately resulted in the opening score and made a try-saving tackle on Quan Horn.

14: Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

Solid as a rock. Reliable and wise, the veteran bagged a try, made the right decisions, and a team-high six successful carries. Did donkey work unique to his stature, too, such as getting boosted to take restarts and constantly hitting rucks like a lock.

13: Lionel Mapoe (Bulls)

Henco van Wyk gave a good account of himself and showed what a slippery customer he’s going to be with his hot-stepping. His hands let him down on occasion, though. Mapoe played the link role and guided his new green centre partner well.

12: David Kriel (Bulls)

Super promising performance at No 12 by the outside back. Provided consistent go-forward and impressed with his distribution as well, shipping some accurate passes and well-executed offloads wide. Added a clever grubber and shifted to his familiar fullback role for the final quarter, where he made a dangerous counter-attack. Made a match-high 84 metres

11: Sbu Nkosi (Bulls)

Quiet after a couple of early bursts but really came alive in the second half. Won a clutch breakdown penalty on his 5m line in the 62nd minute and grafted hard to pounce on a loose ball and hack ahead, which resulted in three points.  

10: Chris Smith (Bulls)

Played a pivotal role in the Pretoria side’s win with his metronomic boot, his accuracy and dependability off the tee further highlighted by Jordan Hendrikse pulling two regulation kicks. Scored 14 points and kicked brilliantly out of hand bar one that went too far. Good break just after halftime, too.

9: Morne van den Berg (Lions)

Tried a couple of unnecessary offloads that didn’t come off but you can’t fault his effort, which was lacking on Embrose Papier’s part. The Bulls No 9 was a few steps off the pace and had Ruan Nortje to thank after having his attempted exit kick charged down. Van den Berg was nippy and both sharp and brave on defence, producing a jackal in the 12th minute.

8: Francke Horn (Lions)

A perennial unsung hero, Horn delivered in every department and then some. Scored the Lions’ first try, led the team in defenders beaten (3) and tackles (10), and poached a lineout in the 52nd minute.

7: Marco van Staden (Bulls)

Both Ruhan Straeuli and Ruan Vermaak were ice-cold and guilty of making basic mistakes. Therefore, while Van Staden replaced Mihlali Mosi at No 8 at the start of the second half, we rewarded him for the fire he brought in his Bulls comeback.

6: Marcell Coetze (Bulls) – Player Of The Week

Led from the front. Powered over for the opening try from a 5m tap and go and made the second, showing good presence of mind to put Hendricks in with a pop pass from the base. A tireless marauder, smashing Straeuli into touch and snatching a turnover in the final five minutes of a statement Man of the Match performance that included an unrivalled 16 tackles.  

5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)

The next-best player on the park. The Ironman of the inaugural season picked right back up where he left off, putting in an all-action 80-minute effort. Good in the lineout and popped up everywhere, saving a try after a charge down and providing a key offload moments later in the lead-up to Hendricks’ try. 

4: Ruan Venter (Lions)

Way to make a name for yourself! The 19-year-old was a bruising, enterprising force who showed his respect for his peers by relentlessly crashing into them with as much velocity as possible.

3: Ruan Dreyer (Lions)

The veteran was solid aside from giving up one scrum. It was a back-and-forth battle in the set-piece, so that’s fair enough. What wasn’t was the soft penalty Mornay Smith conceded for going off his feet when the Bulls were on attack.

2: Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)

As clinical as you get with his lineout throwing, wily maul management, and a workhorse in general play. It was one of his big hits that turned defence into attack and led to the visitors’ second try

1: Sti Sithole (Lions)

Imposed himself in the scrums and open play. Fired the biggest shot at scrum time, a monster shove that earned the Lions their first three points and put in some massive hits.

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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