Here is South Africa’s 2021-22 Vodacom United Rugby Championship team of the season, according to the SA Rugby magazine team.
The round-robin stage of the 2021-22 URC season concluded this weekend, with the Stormers and Vodacom Bulls sealing their places in the top four, while the Sharks finished in fifth place. The Lions, meanwhile, missed out on the quarter-finals, but ended in 12th place, nine points away from the top eight.
The Stormers and Bulls will host Edinburgh and the Sharks, respectively, in the quarter-finals in the first weekend of June.
Unsurprisingly, the SARugbymag.co.za Team of the Season, based on performances for the South African teams in the round-robin phase of the tournament, is dominated by the second-placed Stormers, with eight players overall coming from the Cape.
This includes fullback Warrick Gelant, who narrowly edges out the Bulls’ Kurt-Lee Arendse as his performances have been key to helping the Stormers finish top of the South African conference. Wings Seabelo Senatla (ranked second for most tries this season) and current top try-scorer Leolin Zas join Gelant in the team.
However, in a selection that may shock readers, Jordan Hendrikse has been selected ahead of this season’s top points-scorer Manie Libbok. The 20-year-old scored 117 points for the Lions this season and did not necessarily have the same level of support cast that Libbok has at the Stormers.
It was a mix bag at scrumhalf, as Herschel Jantjies has struggled for consistency, while Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams have blown hot and cold for the Sharks. At the Bulls, Zak Burger and Embrose Papier have been rotated throughout the season, with neither player standing head and shoulders above the other.
Hendrikse is paired with teammate Morne van den Berg as the 24-year-old scrumhalf has been ever present for the Lions, scoring seven tries and putting in some electric performances at Ellis Park.
The back row consists of Evan Roos, Vincent Tshituka and Deon Fourie. This was the most difficult of the selections as there were a large number of top performers. Elrigh Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Phepsi Buthelezi and Hacjivah Dayimani can count themselves unlucky to have missed out.
Roos is selected ahead of Louw as the Stormers player leads the way in successful carries, defenders beaten and has more successful tackles than Louw. Vincent Tshituka picked up several Man of the Match awards for the Lions, while Deon Fourie is currently the season’s turnover king.
For their efforts in helping the Bulls have the most successful defensive and attacking lineout of the South African teams, Bulls trio Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp and Johan Grobbelaar get selected.
There are only two Sharks players: Lukhanyo Am and Thomas du Toit. Despite Springbok responsibilities and a stint in Japan limiting Am’s game time with the Sharks, he has been their most effective back when playing. Thomas du Toit’s consistency and availability at tighthead gets him the nod ahead of Stormers duo Frans Malherbe, who only started five games this season, and Neethling Fouche.
SA URC Team of the Season:
15 Warrick Gelant (Stormers), 14 Seabelo Senatla (Stormers), 13 Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), 12 Damian Willemse (Stormers), 11 Leolin Zas (Stormers), 10 Jordan Hendrikse (Lions), 9 Morne van den Berg (Lions), 8 Evan Roos (Stormers), 7 Vincent Tshituka (Lions), 6 Deon Fourie (Stormers), 5 Ruan Nortje (Bulls), 4 Walt Steenkamp (Bulls), 3 Thomas du Toit (Sharks), 2 Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls), 1 Steven Kitshoff (Stormers).
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images