There’s skill and power aplenty in our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The local franchises made the most of the final round of home fixtures, completing a clean sweep of victories that saw the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls secure playoff places with one round to spare while the Lions sent their fans home happy.
The Bulls set the tone when they banked a 29-17 win over the Glasgow Warriors in Pretoria on Friday night. On Saturday, the Lions beat Benetton 37-29 in Johannesburg, the Sharks crushed Connacht 41-21 in Durban and the Stormers saw off log-leading Leinster 20-13 in Cape Town.
Our team consist of five Sharks stars, four standouts a piece from the Stormers and Bulls and a pair of Lions.
15: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
The game-changer the Sharks needed, lifting them from 11 points down to leading by three in the 10 minutes after half-time. Known for his flair (he beat an unrivalled five defenders) but showed how impactful his fantastic fundamentals can be as well as his 50:22 was the turning point of the game before his scintillating break led to another try moments later.
14: Seabelo Senatla (Stormers)
If at first, you don’t succeed…After being denied by brilliant cover defence by Rob Russell, he got his try with an acrobatic finish in the corner. Hustled hard all evening.
13: Lionel Mapoe (Bulls)
Reminded what a complete centre he is. Asked questions with ball in hand and his offloading game, was strong on defence, and stabbed a perfectly-weighted grubber through for Madosh Tambwe for a controversially disallowed try.
12: Damian Willemse (Stormers)
Instantly established himself as a force to be reckoned with when he broke the line from the kick-off. Produced a textbook jackal in the eighth minute, understated class to draw in defenders and put Senatla over with a perfectly-timed pass, knocked the wind out of Ciaran Frawley with a big hit and finished with a match-high 59 metres.
11: Madosh Tambwe (Bulls)
A bolt of electricity. Inches separated him from a hat-trick to the one try he ended up with. Looked for work to score on the opposite side just before half-time, had his second disallowed and almost snatched an intercept. Put his body on the line and got maximum height under the high balls.
10: Curwin Bosch (Sharks)
Another confidence-driven display. Aside from a very ambitious first attempt at goal, he was perfect off the tee, his 16 points invaluable in keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Great kicking out of hand and made an exciting late break that took him to a match-high 77 metres, while he also won two turnovers.
9: Morne van den Berg (Lions)
A constant threat. Expertly attacked space around the fringes, either squeezing through or creating gaps with nifty touches. Scored a second top-class quick-tap try in as many weeks, good peel and offload were key in setting up Stean Pienaar’s try, combined well with Jordan Hendrikse, and got good height and distance with the boot.
8: Phepsi Buthelezi (Sharks)
A gainline beast. Exploded into contact to put the Sharks on the front foot and soften up the Irish visitors. Gained extra ground through tremendous tackle fight and was a key figure on defence as well, making some hard hits in the trenches and telling cover tackles.
7: Vincent Tshituka (Lions)- Player Of The Week
Took it upon himself to lead the charge, both in terms of work rate and physicality. A runaway freight train on attack, smashing Thomas Gallo into submission and blasting through roadblocks (making an unrivalled eight successful carries). Brilliant on the deck, pouncing to win two penalties in his 22 and earn his fifth Man of the Match award.
6: Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)
Enigmatic, intense and intelligent. A breath of fresh air to see a local loose forward with the wherewithal and skill to know when to push the power button, like the surge that provided the momentum for the Bulls’ first try, and when to work smarter, not harder with a swivel ball wide for Tambwe’s try. A terror at the breakdown as well.
5: Gerbrandt Grobler (Sharks)
A major Man of the Match shift in which he powered over for a brace of tries in heavy traffic, was a pillar of strength in the lineouts and clattered into rucks.
4: Le Roux Roets (Sharks)
The 138kg giant’s magnum opus for the Sharks. Colossal in the tight loose and mauls, a consistent source of go-forward (making a match-high six successful carries), even from a standing start, got over the ball for a breakdown penalty and his try in the 77th minute was just reward as well as a statement that his conditioning is now top-class.
3: Frans Malherbe (Stormers)
Got through a ton of work and tormented Leinster at scrum time, where his power produced penalties in minutes 33 and 52.
2: Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)
The form hooker in the country doing what he does – bring it in every facet of the game. Unmatched drive – making a match-high 12 tackles – an endless gas tank and like an extra loose forward on the ground, where he seized a textbook penalty on his 5m line. Rewarded with another Man of the Match award.
1: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)
A monster effort by the Stormers skipper. Led by example with a super industrious defensive display and flexed his muscles in the scrums, folding his man to win a penalty in his 22 just before half-time. Outstanding one-handed offload to Willemse and in constant communication with the referee.