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Best Bulls v Leinster: Hanekom A Bok In Waiting

Cameron Hanekom proved he’s ready for Test rugby with a monstrous performance to help the Bulls edge Leinster 25-20 in an instant classic United Rugby Championship semi-final clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.


Cameron Hanekom proved he’s ready for Test rugby with a monstrous performance to help the Bulls edge Leinster 25-20 in an instant classic United Rugby Championship semi-final clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

With Leinster crammed with Irish internationals, the Bulls entered the final four fixture as underdogs despite having home ground advantage. Jake White, in the build-up to the mouth-watering match during the week, vowed that his charges won’t die wondering and they well and truly brought the fight to the vaunted visitors.

Little separated the sides from start to finish, with the Bulls having a slender 10-7 halftime lead. The men from Pretoria ultimately outscored Leinster by three tries to two with Sergeal Petersen’s second touchdown proving decisive.

It was a heroic team performance but as we do for big games, let’s shine the spotlight on our top three Bulls standouts:

Cameron Hanekom

Saturday’s showdown doubled as a preview for the Springboks’ much anticipated clash against Ireland at the same venue on 6 July. With that in mind, it was a Springbok audition of sorts for a player like red hot Hanekom, and the Bulls revelation rose to the occasion outstandingly.

The 22-year-old No. 8, in a semi-final in his rookie season – i.e. the biggest game of his young career against one of the best clubs in world rugby – looked a seasoned savage. He played with the perfect mix of poise, passion and power, whilst displaying next-generation ball skills and pilfering prowess in a tireless Man of the Match performance.

Exceptional all season, the blue-chipper upped his game another notch against the Irish giants to show he belongs at the highest level. In terms of firing shots, Hanekom emptied round after round of his machine gun arsenal, which seemingly has no end as he still made plenty of post-contact metres with one of his 15 carries in the 76th minute.

A barnstormer with ball in hand, his handiwork included two brilliant breaks off the back of the scrum, the second of which saw him add a deft grubber that put Jamison Gibson-Park under heaps of pressure. He led the Bulls in dominant carries (10), clean breaks (3), defenders beaten (6) and metres (81), plus he showcased his offloading ability with a match-high three touches.

A Trojan on defence, he seized two turnovers and made an unrivalled 18 tackles with a 100% success rate. What these stats don’t convey is the fact that he dominated most collisions he was involved in and twice manhandled his opposite number, Caelan Doris.

The sky’s the limit for this semi-final show-stealer.

Wilco Louw

Hungry for more Test rugby, Louw made a massive statement as he mauled Andrew Porter at scrum time.

Truly a Bull-dozer, the 29-year-old was an unstoppable force, winning the penalty that gave the hosts a three-point lead at the break and providing the explosive power that saw the Bulls win a heel against the head early in the second half. As big as those two plays were, Louw was unfortunate not to receive more reward for his complete dominance up front.

The 138kg strongman was impressive in the ball-carrying department as well, particularly his ability to consistently make metres after contact. Overall, it was a mighty 60-minute performance.

Willie le Roux

The evergreen maestro showed the value he brings to the Bulls as he bossed the game from the back before falling victim to a head knock that saw him depart in the 56th minute.

Highly instrumental, Le Roux was a real general who unleashed a cavalcade of kicks that kept Leinster guessing and scrambling throughout his time on the pitch. His well-weighted crosskicks created try-scoring opportunities and his classy 50:22 near the half-hour mark was a thing of beauty.

So too was the silky-smooth pass that he sent Devon Williams in with, only for the try to be disallowed due to Marco van Staden playing a man off the ball. His decision-making was spot on and his reliability under the high ball and offloads under pressure further aided the men from Pretoria.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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