With Super Rugby Unlocked in the books, Quintin van Jaarsveld lists his 10 best tries of the tournament.
Players had their work cut out for them in the seven-team Super Rugby Unlocked tournament. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, rugby was played in empty stadia and deep into November in South Africa for the first time ever, leaving players without the 16th man that is the collective live audience and unfamiliar conditions to adapt to.
It’s thus all the more pleasing that players were still able to produce magical moments to unlock defences and send fans jumping out of their couches at home. It took some narrowing down, but here’s my selection of the tournament’s 10 most breath-taking tries…
10: Elton’s excellence
A vintage piece of play from Elton Jantjies resulted in the first try of the Lions’ campaign. Awarded a penalty 5m from the Sharks’ line, the Lions captain summed up the situation in the blink of an eye, showcasing great wherewithal, skill and gumption to put a crosskick on a string for Jamba Ulengo to pluck out of the air and flop over.
9: Pumas flyer pounces
Another Round One ripper, Neil Maritz ensured that the outplayed Pumas ended their encounter against the Cheetahs on a high. Creating something out of nothing, the winger showed why he’s set to feature for the Blitzboks as he juked and jived past four would-be tacklers to canter over.
8: Steyn’s Educated Boot
Morné Steyn put on a masterclass when the Bulls blew away the Stormers at Loftus. Capturing lightning in a bottle in a storm-affected showdown, the veteran flyhalf played the classics and dropped some new hits, one of which was a classy left-footed chip, re-gather and bulls-eye-esque pass for Ruan Nortje to run in.
7: Gans Step’ Unveiled
What a way to score your first Super Rugby try! Centre partner Cornal Hendricks provided the impetus with an excellent break. The quick recycled ball went to Stedman Gans, whose hot-stepping hypnotised the Sharks’ defence. David Campese popularised the Goose step; this was the Blitzbok captain introducing the Gans step to fans of the 15-man code.
6: Burger’s Brilliance
Having a blinder, Lions centre Burger Odendaal made a brilliant break from just outside his 22, utilising a good old dummy to unlock the Stormers’ defence. A second show of the ball also did the trick where after the surging centre beat Damian Willemse with a classy step and put Jantjies in for the try.
5: Pumas Purr
The Pumas provided another highlight, this time from a lineout against the Stormers. Flyhalf Eddie Fouché lobbed a deft chip over the defence that was taken by Wayne van der Bank on the bounce. Tasmanian devil-like, the midfielder spun, stepped past and handed off defenders before offloading to Jeandré Rudolph to score.
4: Perfect Storm
Warrick Gelant, our Player of the Tournament, was the scientist behind this perfect storm as he collected a high ball and cut the Cheetahs to shreds. A perfectly-timed pass to Ruhan Nel then saw the Blitzbok beat four defenders in his own right. The ball quickly went wide where Gelant was instrumental once again, putting Scarra Ntubeni into space, whose outstanding offload allowed Juarno Augustus to finish off.
3: Morné’s Magic Touch
The second Steyn-inspired entry of the list and the ultimate highlight of his magnificent Man of the Match performance in the North-South derby. After a sniping break by Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden fed Steyn who produced a real moment of magic – a Harlem Globetrotter-like behind-the-back ball that sent Gans over in the corner.
2: Simelane’s Stunner
Courtnall Skosan created a much-needed spark for the Lions in the Jukskei derby with a slicing counter-attack. The wing linked up with replacement flank Marnus Schoeman who quickly shipped the ball to centre Wandisile Simelane, who bamboozled four Bulls defenders with fantastic footwork on his way to the tryline.
Who else? Leave it to Rosko Specman to produce a jaw-dropping piece of individual brilliance. A shining moment of the Cheetahs’ bleak trip to Cape Town, it was pure “Specmagic!” Determination, skill and ridiculous athleticism wrapped into one, the Blitzbok legend chipped, dribbled, collected the ball and did his best Superman impression to dot down just before he was bundled into touch.