ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE selects some of the standout players following the Currie Cup final, and rates their performances out of 10.
Cornal Hendricks – 8.5
What is there left to say about Hendricks that has not already been said? On Saturday, he exemplified everything that makes him such a special player.
Hendricks’ ability to step and accelerate is almost unparalleled among South African backs, let alone centres. In the final, his ability to change direction at pace created a number of half breaks. On the attack there are few more threatening centres.
But it isn’t just with ball in hand that Hendricks stands out – he is the creative heartbeat of the Bulls backline and in the final it was his distribution (rather than that of his flyhalf’s) which created the few attacking opportunities the Bulls had. After yet another superb performance, Hendricks must be in the Bok reckoning.
Yaw Penxe – 7.5
The Sharks snapped up Penxe from the Kings, and what an acquisition it has proven to be. Penxe was everywhere for the Durban side, contesting an innumerable amount of high balls and disrupting Bulls possession aplenty.
On defence, the wing showed all his pace when he tracked back to catch Stravino Jacobs in a try-saving effort. Although space did not come his way on attack, the few times he did get ball in hand he showed signs of his potency.
Stravino Jacobs – 7.5
Over the past three weeks, Jacobs has taken South African rugby by storm. The 20-year-old wing has become a sensation and, in the final, again justified why Jake White rates him so highly. His strength in contact is his playing hallmark, and he made plenty of ground on the carries.
Jacobs is also deceptively fast for a man so physical. His explosive pace and physicality are a tantalising combination. Over the course of the final, the Bulls looked to manufacture set-piece moves purely to put Jacobs into space; that should tell you all you need to know about how integral he is to the side.
Elrigh Louw – 7
Louw may have played only 56 minutes, but he made his mark in that time. The young blindside flank’s carrying was ferocious and the one threatening attack the Bulls launched in the first half came off the back of his momentum.
Louw also won his side a penalty after smashing his opposite man, Henco Venter, in contact and then contesting at the ensuing breakdown. The Bulls man has only recently returned from injury and this may explain his limited involvement, but he is certainly one to look out for.
Ox Nche – 7
Before the final, there was much attention paid to the matchup between Springboks Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nche. Nche put in a rock-solid display at scrum time and even got the better of his opposite man on a few occasions (which he was only too happy to communicate).
Around the park, the loosehead was also involved in carrying, tackling and cleaning out rucks. It was a workman-like performance to complement a successful scrum outing. That Nche was only substituted in extra time, signifies not only his excellent conditioning, but also how crucial he is to the Sharks at set piece.