Eben Etzebeth leads a strong Sharks continent in our Team of the Week after the Durban side flew the South African flag in the fifth round of the United Rugby Championship, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Sharks were the only local team to register a win over the weekend as they hit the ground running in their first home game to race to a 40-12 victory over the Glasgow Warriors at Kings Park.
The defending champion Stormers had to settle for a 16-all draw with the Ospreys in torrential rain in Swansea, the never-say-die Lions launched a fightback but succumbed 39-37 to Ulster in a thriller at Ellis Park while the Bulls were no match for Munster in Limerick, where they were lashed 31-17.
Seven Sharks and six Lions earned spots in our team, leaving the Stormers and Bulls with just a single representative apiece.
15: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
Made up for an early defensive blunder with a dynamic display on attack. Fantastic fast hands to send Anthony Volmink away for his second try and scored one himself through stunning synergy with Jaden Hendrikse and a top-class one-handed take. Led the Sharks in successful carries (7) and metres (76).
14: Anthony Volmink (Sharks)
Grabbed his starting opportunity with both hands. A classy finisher, using his express pace to score a double and have us shift him to the right wing.
13: Henco van Wyk (Lions)
Even with the very costly yellow card he conceded, he was still the best of the bunch with Marnus Potgieter making basic mistakes and Lionel Mapoe doing nothing to write home about. Van Wyk broke tackles, did well to stay infield on one occasion, covered acres of space on defence and won two turnovers.
12: Dan du Plessis (Stormers)
Did his primary duties with aplomb as he consistently got the Stormers on the front foot with momentum-generating power bursts while mowing down opposite number Michael Collins and company behind the gain line with rib-rattling hits.
11: Quan Horn (Lions)
A fine showing fuelled by hunger. Looked for work, hunted down ball carriers, won a vital turnover on the deck just outside his 22 and made a try-saving tackle on Nathan Doak. Scored a cracker and created one of the tries of the season with a tackle bust and chicken wing offload to Morne van den Berg.
10: Boeta Chamberlain (Sharks)
An outstanding orchestrator. Weaved his playmaking magic all afternoon to get the best out of the Sharks. Great turn of pace to hit a gap and set up Volmink for his first try, a pinpoint crosskick for an unmarked Werner Kok to finish in style and plenty of classy touches in between. Contributed 15 points with the boot.
9: Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks)
Edged a two-horse race against Sanele Nohamba, who milked a penalty to get the Lions off the mark and made a good run down the right touchline but was replaced after 47 minutes. Hendrikse dropped his box kicks in the right areas and also used his boot to create a try out of nothing for Fassi.
8: Francke Horn (Lions)
Another outstanding performance bookended by a brace of tries. Ever-present, had the speed to sprint in from 70 metres out, never stopped grafting, won a brilliant turnover in the 69th minute and did well to finish a thrilling try to give the Lions a late sniff.
7: Ruan Venter (Lions)
A boy among men considering he’s just 19 and yet, for the second straight week, he was the hammer, not the nail. Smashed Wallaby lock Sam Carter and showed he’s not just brawn with a brilliant one-handed offload to Quan Horn that should’ve resulted in a try. Also forced a turnover with good competing in the lineout.
6: Emmanuel Tshituka (Lions)
Arguably his best performance yet. It was his turnover in the Lions’ 22 that led to Horn galloping home, while he powered through a double tackle to dot down himself. Led the Lions in successful carries (5) and defenders beaten (4) and made a match-high 15 tackles.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
The exception in a Bulls team who criminally sat back and waited for Munster to run at them, Nortje consistently got off the line and was in the hosts’ faces. Spilt blood in this lonely battle as he made tackle after tackle and got over the ball to win a breakdown penalty.
4: Eben Etzebeth (Sharks) – Player Of The Week
A 2.03m stick of dynamite in his Sharks debut, starting with a statement first carry that saw him make a good 10 metres in contact. Gored George Turner with a thumping hit, completely disrupted Glasgow’s lineout – forcing no less than seven turnovers – exceptional kick chasing – tapping back a few bombs – and made several handy offloads to claim the Man of the Match award.
3: Ruan Dreyer (Lions)
As good as you get from a tighthead. Dominated at scrum time, where he won two penalties, conjured up an outstanding one-handed offload to unleash Horn for his long-range try, freed up Nohamba with another deft touch and did good work at the breakdown.
2: Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks)
Injected class off the bench. Clinical and commanding, he made some strong surges and got onto the scoresheet from the back of a driving maul.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Another member of the Sharks’ “Bomb Squad” who delivered a hostile takeover. A barging ball carrier, busy defender and added some slick passes like the one in the lead-up to Volmink’s second try.