DYLAN JACK identifies the standout South African players based on performances in the opening round of the Currie Cup.
The first round of the Currie Cup brought dramatic wins for the Vodacom Bulls and Lions, while the Sharks were far more comfortable in claiming a bonus-point victory over a depleted Pumas side which was without 11 players.
In Kimberley, the Lions came from a 17-3 deficit to take a 20-17 lead against Griquas before the game was called off due to heavy lightning. Meanwhile, a 14-man Bulls side produced a brave performance and scored a late converted try to snatch a 22-20 win over Western Province at Newlands.
There are seven Bulls players in this week’s team, including wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, who scored a brace of tries, and centre Cornal Hendricks, who defended his channel very well and set Arendse up for his first try. Flyhalf Chris Smith also makes it in after astutely producing a last-gasp assist with a cross-field kick and then slotting the winning conversion from the touchline. There are three Bulls forwards in Ruan Nortje, who poached a crucial lineout near his own tryline in the second half, prop Trevor Nyakane and hooker Johan Grobbelaar.
As disappointing as the defeat would have been for Western Province, there were still some good performances against the Bulls, particularly from their forwards. Juarno Augustus and Ernst van Rhyn both scored a try each and were strong in the carry, while Steven Kitshoff was once again one of the most impressive players on the park for the Cape side.
Despite the 45-10 scorline, the Sharks weren’t at their glittering best against the Pumas, but Sbu Nkosi and Jeremy Ward both scored two tries each. Nkosi made an excellent impact as a substitute, with one of his tries coming from a brilliant take out of the air from a kick-off. Ward, meanwhile, scored both of his tries from good defensive reads, forcing the Pumas into errors near their own tryline.
The Lions could count themselves fortunate to have come away with the win from Kimberley as up until the final 10 minutes of the first half, Griquas certainly had the better of the game. Zak Burger carried his form over from Super Rugby Unlocked, while Gideon van der Merwe was a nuisance at the breakdown for Griquas. The Lions do have one representative in lock Willem Alberts, who was typically bruising in a tough encounter.
CURRIE CUP TEAM OF THE WEEK (Round 1)
15 David Kriel (Bulls)
14 Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)
13 Jeremy Ward (Sharks)
12 Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)
11 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
10 Chris Smith (Bulls)
9 Zak Burger (Griquas)
8 Juarno Augustus (Western Province)
7 Ernst van Rhyn (Western Province)
6 Gideon van der Merwe (Griquas)
5 Ruan Nortje (Bulls)
4 Willem Alberts (Lions)
3 Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)
2 Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)
1 Steven Kitshoff (Western Province)
*Note: The Free State Cheetahs had a bye in the first round of the Currie Cup
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images