Irrepressible Lions eighthman Francke Horn headlines our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The local franchises had mixed fortunes in Europe in Round Four. The Lions finished their tour unbeaten courtesy of another courageous comeback that saw them edge Edinburgh 22-19 in the Scottish capital on Friday night, while the Stormers cruised to a 37-20 win over Zebre in Parma on Saturday.
The Sharks and Bulls were less fortunate later on Saturday as they suffered their first losses of the season. The Durbanites threatened an upset in Dublin before Leinster pulled clear in the final quarter to come away as 54-34 winners, while the Bulls failed to fire and fell 35-21 to the Warriors in Glasgow.
The Lions and Sharks each have five representatives in our team, the final third of which is made up of a trio of Stormers and a pair of Bulls.
15: Andries Coetzee (Lions)
Kurt-Lee Arendse was one of a select few Bulls who could be satisfied with their performances while Aphelele Fassi scored a brace but let the Durbanites down on defence. Coetzee was the complete package, launching torpedoes with his left boot, making two try-saving tackles, and displaying good footwork to score the Lions’ opening try just before halftime.
14: Werner Kok (Sharks)
Beamed with energy and controlled aggression. Rounded off a slick try, ran the width of the field to secure a try-saving jackal on the stroke of halftime, and clattered into the rucks like a lock.
13: Henco van Wyk (Lions)
Epitomised the tenacity of the Lions, from the incredible cover tackle on danger man Darcy Graham to burrowing through two defenders to score a try very few would have. Made three clean breaks and a team-high 91 metres.
12: Sacha Mngomezulu (Stormers)
The Junior Springbok captain was entrusted with a lot of responsibilities in his first start and it was easy to see why as he played with maturity well beyond his years. Kept the scoreboard ticking with a perfect 7/7 off the tee, good line kicking, great awareness to dribble a loose ball ahead and put Herschel Jantjies in and finished off with a try for a personal tally of 22 points and the Man of the Match award.
11: Thaakir Abrahams (Sharks)
A towering performance by the tiny wizard as he scored a double in Dublin. Coolly collected Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s pass on the bounce to dot down his first while the second was a piece of individual brilliance. The key man in Kok’s try with a wicked step and pass to take out two defenders.
10: Chris Smith (Bulls)
Arguably an eye-catching selection but one based on the basics. Gianni Lombard missed three kicks at goal, including an easy conversion, Boeta Chamberlain’s distribution was good but he was similarly off target while Manie Libbok got to sit back and enjoy the Sacha show. Smith’s goal-kicking and kicking out of hand were excellent and enough for him to crack the nod.
9: Sanele Nohamaba (Lions)
Grant Williams varied his play well and caused Leinster problems with a couple of clever kicks. However, kicking one out on the full proved a costly mistake as it resulted in a try. Nohamba didn’t put a foot wrong. Fast and accurate from the base, consistently hit the right runners and his box kicks were pinpoint, two of them within a metre of the left-hand touchline.
8: Francke Horn (Lions) – Player Of The Week
His extraordinary energy would’ve lit up the entire Johannesburg during load shedding had it been a home game – from the try-saving ankle tap on Emiliano Boffelli to the good line and step to score (time-stamped below) and the hack ahead that ultimately led to the match-winning penalty goal. Also produced a crucial lineout steal just outside his 22 with five minutes to go in a roaring Man of the Match performance.
7: Ruan Venter (Lions)
An emerging giant. The 19-year-old championed the pride of Johannesburg’s physical onslaught as a battering ram ball carrier and a ruthless dominator on defence, making a match-high 15 hits. Absolutely owned Hamish Watson, smashing him with a driving double leg tackle in the first half and sat him down with ball in hand in the second to end the Scottish international’s night early. Also added a brilliant jackal in his 22.
6: James Venter (Sharks)
Excellent in tandem with Dylan Richardson at the breakdown, a key area the Sharks’ success was built on at the RDS Arena. Tackled like a Trojan and gained ground through sheer determination.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
Another ironman effort. Worked his socks off, having a try disallowed after charging down a kick and making a team-high 13 hits, the pick of the bunch being a great cover tackle on wing Sebastian Cancelliere in the 62nd minute.
4: Reniel Hugo (Sharks)
Came on for the injured Justin Basson in the 15th minute and made a major impact across the board. Piled on the pressure on Leinster’s lineout, popped an outstanding offload that nearly resulted in a try and made several telling tackles.
3: Neethling Fouche (Stormers)
Strong overall effort. Bossed the scrums, including winning a penalty in the ninth minute, good in the trenches, and powered over for a try.
2: Andre – Hugo Venter (Stormers)
A tireless terrier. In the thick of the action, making hard yards with good leg-driving carries, plenty of tackles, and clamping onto the ball to secure a breakdown penalty on his 5m line just after halftime.
1: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
A colossal captain’s innings that saw us switch him to loosehead to accommodate Fouche given he’s a swing prop. Powered the Sharks’ surge, including becoming the first brute to win a scrum penalty against Leinster this season. Carried strongly and won a penalty on the deck in the 32nd minute.