Bulls fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse showed out as the South African franchises completed a second successive clean sweep in the United Rugby Championship at the weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Bulls kicked things off on Friday with a comfortable yet frustrating 28-14 win over Connacht in Pretoria before a guts and glory effort by the Lions saw them upset Cardiff 31-18 in miserable conditions in the Welsh capital.
On Saturday, the Stormers recovered from a tough first half to run out 34-18 winners over Edinburgh in Cape Town and the Sharks snuck in through the back door to snatch a dramatic 20-19 win over the Dragons in Newport.
Arendse is one of five Bulls players in our South African Team of the Week. The Lions and Stormers have four representatives apiece while a pair of Sharks cracked the nod.
15: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls) – Player of the Week
An all-action spitfire. Clean pair of heels to streak in for an opportunistic opening try, cut Connacht to pieces with his hot-stepping, great aerial take, pulled off a late jackal and even packed down at flank in a Man of the Match performance he won’t forget.
14: Suleiman Hartzenberg (Stormers)
Solid and exciting stuff on the wing from the Junior Springbok centre. Great read and agility to snag an intercept and canter in from 70m out and doubled up in the final play of the game.
13: Henco van Wyk (Lions)
Made a serious splash in wet and windy Cardiff. His massive hit was a big moment in the match, not just inspiring his teammates but forcing a penalty that got them on the board. Cool and classy to defuse a dangerous grubber and turn it into a counterattack with a wicked step from inside his 22.
12: Marius Louw (Lions)
Central to the success of the direct game plan the Lions employed to pummel Cardiff. So strong and ultra-committed to his new club, playing as if he was in someone else’s body as he relentlessly trucked the ball up. Big on defence, too, dislodging the ball with force and ripping a turnover on another occasion to come away with the Man of the Match award.
11: Werner Kok (Sharks)
Absolutely everywhere. Superhuman energy and determination saw him put out fires all over Rodney Parade and force his way into our team with a shift to left wing. Explosive pace to skin his man and make a lethal break from a scrum inside his 22.
10: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
“Can you see me now?!” That’s the message he sent Rassie Erasmus, who was in the crowd, with his all-around class. Perfect place-kicking for 14 points, equally good out of hand and a puppeteer on attack, finessing the defence beautifully to set up Hartzenberg for the all-important bonus point try. Also saved a try with a cover tackle on Mark Bennett.
9: Zak Burger (Bulls)
Maximised his pack’s dominance in a superb 60-minute showing. Sharp and unpredictable, scoring a brace with a simple snipe and textbook support play, brilliant break out of his 22, snappy service and won a brave breakdown penalty.
8: Elrigh Louw (Bulls)
Not a barnstormer but rock solid in every department. Made powerful carries, had a high output on defence and featured in the lineout as well.
7: Dylan Richardson (Sharks)
In a word, relentless. Hacked away on both sides of the ball, making more successful carries (9) and tackles (16) than any other player at Rodney Parade while beating four defenders and fighting for scraps to earn the Man of the Match award.
6: Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)
Put the hammer down, pumping his legs post-contact for a team-high nine successful carries and powering over for a second try in as many weeks. Made an unrivalled 17 tackles, shut down Connacht’s best attacking sequence of the first half with a breakdown penalty and led his team well in bizarre circumstances. Won’t forget his attempt at throwing the ball into the lineout.
5: Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
Went above and beyond. Didn’t just poach lineouts and counter-rucked, he also tackled tirelessly, turned the ball over at the breakdown, ran a great line to slice through and put Burger in for his second try with a top pass.
4: Pieter Jansen van Vuren (Lions)
The Lions pack paved the path to victory, rolling up their sleeves and doing donkey work. Jansen van Vuren was one of the standout figures in the trenches and driving mauls (the visitors’ most valuable weapon on the night) and went the full 80 minutes.
3: Ruan Dreyer (Lions)
A fixture on the frontline, at the rucks and the mauls and came up big at scrum time in a strong 62-minute shift. Won two penalties in his beloved set-piece, one in each half, with the first being particularly vital as it came on his 5m line.
2: Joseph Dweba (Stormers)
A particularly pleasing debut by the powerhouse hooker after he misfired in the Rugby Championship. Spot on with his lineout throwing and a wrecking ball in open play. Pure power to score off a maul to put the Stormers in the lead.
1: Brok Harris (Stormers)
The old warhorse was roped in early, in the 34th minute, and did a fantastic job stabilising the scrum after fellow veteran WP Nel eviscerated Ali Vermaak. Top stuff but a curious choice for Man of the Match.