The fourth round of the seven-team tournament saw the Bulls make an emphatic statement as they decimated the Stormers in a one-sided North/South derby on Saturday night.
A thunderstorm brought the clash at Loftus to a premature end, with the Bulls banking a 39-6 bonus-point win. Jake White’s charges remain at the top of the table thanks to the rout and boast five players in our team. Not a single Stormers players made our side, adding to the Capetonians’ confessed embarrassment.
There are five Lions in our line-up, including the Player of the Week, after the men from Johannesburg picked up their first win in style on Friday night. Ivan van Rooyen’s team were rampant, running in nine tries in their terrific 61-31 triumph over the visitors from Kimberley, who have two representatives in our team.
Sandwiched in between these fixtures, the Sharks on Saturday afternoon bounced back from their loss to the Bulls by outplaying the Pumas in Nelspruit. The Durban outfit netted a commanding 42-19 victory, with three of their standouts rounding off our team. The Cheetahs had a bye.
15: James Verity-Amm (Griquas)
The former Western Force and Brumbies star continued to make an impression. Was on a different plane than his fellow backs, a piercing machine gun while his teammates misfired. Individual brilliance saw him dance past seven defenders in all, make three clean breaks and rack up a round-high 122 metres. Read Elton Jantjies like a book, plucking the Lions captain’s crosskick out of the air and cantering over for a try.
14: Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)
A tough choice as Stean Pienaar was prolific for the Lions, rushing for all of 103 metres and crossing the whitewash. Defence let him down, however, as he missed as many tackles as he made (4-4). Nkosi was great in both departments, giving Devon Williams the good old “don’t argue” to dot down (while making three line breaks and 39 metres) and made a try-saving back-tracking tackle and turnover on the hour-mark (nine tackles in all).
13: Wandisile Simelane (Lions) – Player of the Week
It was the Simelane show at Ellis Park. Griquas had no answers for his playmaking prowess, with the Lion’s livewire having a key hand in three tries, the pick of the bunch a fantastic flick to Pienaar after drawing two defenders. The 2018 Junior Springbok Player of the Year capped off his Man of the Match performance with a sizzling solo try in the second stanza.
12: Marius Louw (Sharks)
Very little to choose from between Louw and Cornal Hendricks, with the latter looking reborn at No.12. The Sharks centre was heavily involved from the opening minute, showing skill with a classy offload and following it up with a powerful hand-off and pop for Manie Libbok to score. Made some huge hits, turned over the ball on the deck, added his power to driving mauls and helped out at scrumhalf.
11: Courtnall Skosan (Lions)
The forgotten Springbok reminded of his blistering pace and elusive footwork as he bagged a hat-trick of tries. Made a match-high 104 metres in nine runs, which saw him beat two defenders and make four clean breaks. Madosh Tambwe deserves a special mention after cutting the Pumas to pieces, scoring an excellent counter-attacking try and making 114 metres.
10: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
A masterclass by the wily veteran, who pulled the strings with aplomb. Showcased a full bag of tricks with his educated boot, executing an array of pinpoint kicks to punish the Stormers, both keeping them bogged down and exploiting space behind the defensive line. Moments of magic – a ridiculous behind-the-back ball to put Stedman Gans over and a deft left-footed chip, re-gather and pass for Ruan Nortje to run in (one of two chip try assists) – were the icing on the cake.
9: Ivan van Zyl (Bulls)
The Fourie du Preez factor’s already paying dividends with Van Zyl producing a sterling performance. Most notably, had the gumption to play the situation, taking advantage of a wheeling scrum with a sniping break that saw him beat four defenders to spark one of Gans’ tries. Scored a try of his own, passed and kicked well and made a telling tackle on Herschel Jantjies when the Stormers threatened to score straight after half-time.
8: Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)
A great weekend overall by the No.8s, with Len Massyn making a round-high 15 tackles. However, none were more commanding than the Bulls captain, who personifies the power and brute force approach the Pretoria franchise have reverted to under White. Steamrolled his way to a pack-high 31 metres in five carries and was immovable at the breakdown, where he won two textbook turnovers.
7: Vincent Tshituka (Lions)
In a round where none of the blindside flankers stood out, Tshituka cracked the nod thanks to his unrivalled work rate. The athletic Lions loose forward was particularly productive on defence, making no less than 13 hits, and carried the ball up five times.
6: Gideon van der Merwe (Griquas)
Marco van Staden and Francois Kleinhans made strong cases, but Van der Merwe’s warrior spirit won out. Guts without glory. A shining light in a losing effort, the Griquas fetcher gave his all, securing an unrivalled three turnovers on the deck, made a team-high 10 tackles and seven carries.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
A real workhorse. Physical yet skilful with plenty of fire and fuel in the tank. Continues to make strides every week. Ruled the lineout, where he secured three takes and snatched a Stormers’ throw-in, carried strongly and often for 22 metres and was rewarded for his high output with a five-pointer.
4: Jason Jenkins (Bulls)
Beastly, both individually and in tandem with Nortje. The second-rowers have remarkable synergy this early on as a combination and served as the engine room of the dominant Bulls pack. Brutal at the gainline, grizzly-like in the mauls and the go-to man in the lineouts (four takes).
3: Carlu Sadie (Lions)
One of the best and most underrated scrummagers around. Absolutely gored Griquas at scrum time, which set the platform for the rout. Also put in work across the park, bulldozing the impressive Van der Merwe in one of his four carries and made all four of his tackles.
2: Jaco Visagie (Lions)
A standout all-around effort from the former Bull, who’s seemingly found his feet at his new franchise. Good in the set-pieces and excellent in open play, where a dominant tackle on George Whitehead resulted in Skosan’s second try. Completed eight tackles in all, won two turnovers and was rewarded with a try.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Continued his fine early-tournament form. Enforced dominance in the scrums, where he pummelled the Pumas into conceding two penalties, made three trademark leg-driving carries – busting a tackle and making a pack-high 36 metres – and halted the hosts’ wave of momentum by winning a breakdown penalty.