Front-row leviathan Asenathi Ntlabakanye leads a hungry pack of Lions into our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Stormers started things off by playing to a 22-all stalemate with unbeaten Leinster in Dublin on Friday night.
On Saturday, the Lions completed a roaring comeback to secure a 32-28 win over Benetton in Treviso, the Sharks went down 32-20 to the Scarlets in Llanelli and the Bulls were beaten 32-23 by Ulster in Belfast.
The Lions are rewarded with seven players in our side, the Bulls have five, the Stormers two, and the Sharks one.
15: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
An attacking force in the first half, stepping defenders left and right, running for 122 metres, and scoring a try, while he earned the Bulls a 5m scrum with a clever grubber. Criminally underused in the second stanza.
14: Canan Moodie (Bulls)
Sprinkled a bit of magic to create a try for Arendse, saved one at the other end by holding a player up over the line, powered Jacob Stockdale over his own line to earn a 5m scrum, and was good in the air.
13: Manuel Rass (Lions)
Rass and Dan du Plessis both impressed with their power, pace, and agility. The Lions centre won out as his brilliant fleet-footed line break – one of his joint-team-high seven successful carries – created the match-winning try.
12: Marius Louw (Lions)
The yin to Rass’ yang. Set targets and put the Lions on the front foot with the hard running he’s renowned for and used both power and skill to set up Emmanuel Tshituka for his first try.
11: Edwill van der Merwe (Lions)
Sparked a try with a superb break and beat four defenders in all. Influential on defence as well, showing good strength to force a maul turnover and made a low spot tackle that led to another turnover.
10: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
Enhanced his reputation with a 12-point all-court performance. Brilliantly bobbed and weaved through for the first try and created the other two, first by pouncing on a loose ball and unleashing Suleiman Hartzenberg and then by grubbering to Clayton Blommetjies to dot down. Used the wind well in the first half and was rock solid on defence.
9: Zak Burger (Bulls)
Good game management in terms of varying play and controlling the tempo. Touched down, sparked a try-scoring opportunity with a sniping break, kicked well, and won a breakdown penalty.
8: Francke Horn (Lions)
Highly influential. Made an incredible 50-metre run in which he broke two tackles and drew in two more defenders to release Rabz Maxwane for a try. A busy defender and made a lineout steal in the 72nd minute.
7: Ruan Venter (Lions)
Gave the Lions an explosive edge in their Italian job. Powered them over the advantage line at will, one of his joint-team-high seven successful carries providing the momentum for their first try. Was key in two other tries with his quick hands, made hard hits, and featured in the lineout to earn the Man of the Match award.
6: Emmanuel Tshituka (Lions)
Quick, powerful, and ever-present. Scored a brace of tries to help put the Lions in the lead and produced a clutch breakdown penalty with seven minutes to go to edge Marco van Staden.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
The Bulls pack rose to the challenge and their captain led the charge with a tireless 80-minute performance. Prominent in every department and growing in his leadership role.
4: Ruben van Heerden (Stormers)
A statement showing in which the mobile second rower worked his socks off. Led the Stormers’ defensive effort, making no less than 22 tackles including a try-saving stop on Luke McGrath, was one of their primary ball carriers and good in the lineouts.
3: Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Lions) – Player Of The Week
The 153kg gargantuan made a massive impact. Won two turnovers, the first leading to a try, rebuilt a driving maul single-handedly, saved the day when he forced a maul turnover on his 5m line in the second half, and made a team-high 11 tackles.
2: Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)
Another front-row workhorse, leading the Bulls’ defensive display with 10 tackles. Made effective leg-driving carries and contested on the ground. Additionally, in a round where his competition misfired in the lineouts, he was spot on.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Pure domination at scrum time, where he uprooted and mauled Javan Sebastian to win four penalties, and made a few good carries.