Mercurial Manie Libbok leads a slew of Stormers into our South African United Rugby Championship Team of the Week, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Stormers on Saturday set up a home semi-final showdown with Connacht with a comprehensive 33-21 win over arch-rivals the Bulls in a repeat of last year’s final in Cape Town while the Sharks’ title hopes were dashed in Dublin, where they went down 35-5 to Leinster.
Our final local team of the week consists of 12 Stormers, two Sharks and one Bulls standout.
15: Damian Willemse (Stormers)
Both flashy and did the dirty work such as cleaning a ruck in the lead-up to the first try. Architected Angelo Davids’ try by breaking Stedman Gans’ ankles with a wicked step and doubling around to make a crucial pass and won the kicking battle against Johan Goosen.
14: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
Produced moments of magic. An aerial artist despite being one of the smallest players on the pitch, sparked what was ultimately a disallowed try through sheer brilliance and made a try-saving intervention on Willemse.
13: Ruhan Nel (Stormers)
The former Blitzbok was a low-key contributor who did the basics well, organised the defence and produced a high-level jackal.
12: Dan du Plessis (Stormers)
Threatened early and often, making more clean breaks (2) and beating more defenders (5) than any other player. Made a good eight metres post-contact on one occasion and launched a long pass to put Hacjivah Dayimani in a few phases later. Created a try-scoring opportunity with a clever kick and made a try-saving tackle on Keagan Johannes.
11: Leolin Zas (Stormers)
Signalled his return from injury with a try and some hard running that saw him steamroll both Embrose Papier and Lionel Mapoe.
10: Manie Libbok (Stormers) – Player of the Week
The man of the moment. Confident, clinical and absolutely deadly in a Man of the Match performance that did his Springbok future the world of good. Varied play brilliantly, cut up the Bulls with ball in hand, including creating the first try, delivered dangerous dinks for Nel and Zas and contributed 18 points with a goal-kicking masterclass.
9: Herschel Jantjies (Stormers)
A tactically astute performance that’ll please the Springbok coaches. Confident start saw him roll two grubbers into touch five metres from the try line and he continued to put the Stormers on the front foot.
8: Evan Roos (Stormers)
Came alive after a quiet first quarter. Engaged his power to win valuable metres in contact, including setting the target in the build-up to Zas’ try, and won two turnovers on the deck.
7: Hacjivah Dayimani (Stormers)
Scored the Stormers’ opening try, had some deft touches like the inside pass to Du Plessis that nearly resulted in a try and was influential in the lineout.
6: Deon Fourie (Stormers)
Back with a bang. Almost scored an early try, made two tremendous turnovers, one in each half, and notched up a try-assist when he put away Zas.
5: Marvin Orie (Stormers)
Produced an outrageous lineout steal that resulted in a try and covered acres of space in general play, making a match-high 14 tackles.
4: Ruben van Heerden (Stormers)
Brains and brawn. Expertly sacked two mauls to defuse danger and create turnovers, the second on his 22m line, was the Stormers’ main source of lineout ball and brought good physicality.
3: Carlu Sadie (Sharks)
Replaced an injured Thomas du Toit in the 23rd minute and left a lasting impression by going to town at scrum time, an area the Sharks dominated.
2 Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks)
Took the fight to Leinster at the gain line, made a try-saving back-tracking tackle on Max Deegan and was superb in the set pieces.
1: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)
Led by example. His world-class work rate saw him being the first man in support of Du Plessis after the centre’s deft kick and his breakdown penalty in the 72nd minute highlighted his extraordinary gas tank. Strong in the scrum as always.