Carrying on the tradition that we started a couple of weeks ago, let’s go through the list of the performers from this week.
With the Bulls and Lions not playing it’s all coastal action, with the young guns sticking their hands up again.
1) Steven Kitshoff – It’s no wonder that the WPRU wanted his parents to sign a piece of paper waving the usual ban on allowing school-kids to play professional rugby. He looks like a young Os du Randt and has not only equalled any prop he has come up against in the scrums, but bettered them. This kid will be in the Springbok setup come June.
2) Bismark du Plessis – I thought long and hard about this, based on the fact that Bismark really struggled to find his jumpers in the line out in terrible conditions this weekend, but his all-round utility as a scrummager and player in the tight made my mind up for me. He seems to be, like David Pocock, next to impossible to ruck off of the ball legally. The turnovers that he effects are astounding and the attention around the ruck by defenders to his wide-stanced advancement means that spaces open up after phase 1 already.
3) Frans Malherbe – I know this kid was a replacement, but the combination of him and Kitshoff in the front row with Bekker and Etzebeth behind them literally destroyed the Blues scrum. It was astounding to see this after the last 2 years of barely breaking even with props made of marshmallow. It reminded of that international between Australia and England where English players were dropping to their knees to concede the scrum, so that Andrew Sheridan could eat Matt “le cochon” Dunning again.
4) Eben Etzebeth – I would have given anything to see Etzebeth come up against Brad Thorn. It’s the kind of stand-off that makes my mouth water. It’s enough to see him come up against Sharpie this season. What makes such a devastating player is the ease at which he switches locking roles from support and strength to line-out jumper. Strangely enough I am looking forward to Bekker taking a breather and seeing Etzebeth and Elstadt line up for the Stormers later this year, as I think it will only make the scrum stronger.
5) Andries Bekker – He’s 29 this year, which means in 3 years time he will not be at his most devastating at the next World Cup, but hopefully he manages his body this season and next and will be there to collect the medal that is rightfully his. Will take his place as one of the all-time great locks if he continues to muscle up in the tight.
6) Marcel Coetsee – Tops the tackle count this week and we can forgive the knocks in the dreadful conditions in Durban. Plumtree has some interesting decisions to make around his 2nd row and looses, with Deysel coming back and Alberts in fine form. He could do worse than to retread Alberts as a 4 lock and keep the loose trio of Deysel, Coetsee and Daniel.
7) Duane Vermeulen – his switch to seven has been seamless and I can see him doing the same thing at Springbok level behind Juan Smith. His tireless work in the rucks and tackling suits him to seven and allows the Stormers and Boks to play a linking 8th man with speed like Koster or Spies.
8) Keegan Daniel – gonna give it to Daniel this week for a well taken try that was a typical Reds try, where a clever angle close to the line brought him to the line to touch down for a try. Koster is also beckoning with improvement each week, but after this weekend Daniel has the edge. I was tempted to give it to Chaka Johnson for his barnstorming 15 minutes in which his break won the game for the Cheetahs, but he needs to play a full 80 minutes.
9) Charl McLeod – for bringing his team back into the game. Duvenhage was clinical, but is missing the opportunities to back Koster up on his runs in the tight-loose. McLeod showed Plumtree why he should be starting every game this year.
10) Johan Goosen – Lambie was good in trying conditions, but flip me, 4 games into his SuperRugby career and Goosen is already topping the points table. Hitting his straps so fast that it’s going to be hard to ignore him for a starting berth with the Boks over the limited Steyn. There was a peach of a break against the Rebels this week, that was classic Larkham. After taking the ball to the line and then passing the whole game, in the 70th minute he changed his running angle to the outside and literally “unlocked” the defense with a yawning hole in front of him. The only other flyhalf that has done that recently in SA is Lambie.
11) Habs – You have to admire his never-say-die attitude. When everyone was making chirps about the Cape life making him soft and his age catching up to him, he never stopped trying. This weekend his form found him again, with a classic sniper try and mounds of hard work around it.
12) Jean de Villiers – Rolled back the years and outplayed Nonu. Think that the re-introduction of Bash Grant had a lot to do with his effectiveness increase. Looked like the king of midfield of old.
13) Tim Whitehead – Another player to add to the already long list of WPRU discards that make a name for themselves at other provinces. Looked to be a shaky purchase at the beginning of the season, but is putting in big game after big game as the season goes on. He was awesome on saturday, making up for Meyer Bosman inside him.
14) Willie le Roux – I know he is strictly on the other wing, but he needed to be included for his awesome display. Oh and take a look, he’s another WPRU discard. Yellow card was incredibly harsh, especially as a Rebels player got away with the same thing on their line without being penalized. Scored two corkers. Definitely vying for higher honours.
15) Riaan Viljoen – Saved the Sharks bacon on more than one occasion this weekend. Another brilliant purchase by the Shorks.