DYLAN JACK picks a lineup of the best performing South Africans from the Pro14 this season.
15 – Masixole Banda (Kings)
The only Kings player in the team, but fully deserving of his place. The 30-year-old has been a points machine for his side, scoring 115 this season to put himself among the top 10 scorers. Banda was deadeye with the kicking tee as well, slotting 32 conversions and 12 penalties, in what was otherwise a disappointing year for the Port Elizabeth franchise.
14 – Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh)
An impressive year saw the George-born wing help his side into playoff contention. While he normally plays on the left wing, the younger brother of Sharks hooker Akker has been that good that he had to be included. Ranking third overall for both clean breaks (28) and defenders beaten (65), Van der Merwe used his 106kg frame to good effect this season, scoring nine tries in 18 games.
13 – Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors)
While he only arrived in the Pro14 in February, when the season was already near its end, such was the impact Steyn had that he has now found himself in the Scotland training squad for the World Cup. A little-known name in his country of birth, having played for Maties before captaining Griquas in the Currie Cup, Steyn has almost made himself a household name in Scotland. Ranking top for defenders beaten in the final, Steyn has been a constant threat from midfield since his arrival at Celtic Park. Don’t bet against him play a big role for the Scots in Japan.
12 – Nico Lee (Cheetahs)
While the centre missed out the bulk of the second half of the campaign due to suspension, Lee was in good enough form to earn an inclusion into the XV. A lot was expected of Lee following the departure of Cheetahs captain Francois Venter to England, and he largely managed to fill that gap. A solid 2018-19 has seen him linked with a potential move south to the Stormers.
11 – Rabz Maxwane (Cheetahs)
Undeniably the top performer in the two South African franchises. Maxwane went about equalling Tim Visser’s season record of 14 tries, coming ever so close to breaking it. The 23-year-old, a product of Dale College, was a constant threat in his breakthrough season, showing what he can do when given an extended run in a team. Maxwane ranked top for clean breaks and third for metres gained.
10 – Brandon Thomson (Glasgow Warriors)
Thomson, who initially arrived in Glasgow on a loan deal as injury cover, has finally started to perform to his promise. Often finding himself behind Finn Russell and Peter Horn in the pecking order when he arrived, Thomson has made his rare appearances count, impressing with a 24-point haul in the victory over the Scarlets in December.
9 – Dewaldt Duvenage (Benetton Treviso)
The first of three Italian-based players in the team, Duvenage has been a mainstay in the Treviso starting lineup, helping them to their first-ever appearance in the Pro14 playoffs. The 31-year-old still has plenty of rugby in him, ranking top for most passes this season.
8 – Marcell Coetzee (Ulster)
Enjoying his finest season since joining Ulster, Coetzee has finally shrugged off his injuries and started to look like the player who made his Springbok breakthrough under Heyneke Meyer. The No 8 ranked third for turnovers won and carries this season, bringing him back into the conversation for a potential role in the World Cup.
7 – Braam Steyn (Benetton Treviso)
The Italian-capped flank shone for Treviso this year, often making prodigious metres with ball in hand. The Cradock-born 27-year-old looks set to be a big part of Italy’s plans for the World Cup.
6 – Chris Cloete (Munster)
The former Kings flank has come to the fore with Munster this season, particularly in the win over Leinster in December, a game in which he also scored. The 28-year-old has extended his stay in Limerick until 2022.
5 – Irné Herbst (Benetton Treviso)
Probably the unsung hero of Treviso’s 2018-19, Herbst put in some workmanlike performances, channelling his inner Franco Mostert to help the team, without ever stealing the spotlight.
4 – Jean Kleyn (Munster)
The former Stormers forward, who qualified as Irish in August, has been included in the pre-World Cup squad. That shows the strides that the 25-year-old has made this season, forming a powerful spine with many of his countrymen in Munster.
3 – WP Nel (Edinburgh)
The experienced tighthead has formed part of a destructive scrum alongside his fellow South African loosehead, and was nominated for the official team of the season. The 33-year-old could star in the World Cup for Scotland this year.
2 – Rob Herring (Ulster)
Another team of the year nominee, Irish-capped Herring enjoyed a solid campaign for Ulster, scoring eight tries in 17 games.
1 – Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh)
One of only two South Africans in the Pro14 team of the season, Schoeman has played with extra zest following his move from the Vodacom Bulls. Schoeman picked up Edinburgh’s Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, and has pledged his future to Scotland.
Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images