With the Pumas and Griquas out of the running for the Currie Cup, DYLAN JACK looks at six players who were impressive against the ‘bigger’ unions throughout the domestic season.
Eddie Fouche (Pumas)
One of the breakthrough stars of Super Rugby Unlocked, Pumas flyhalf Fouche looked set to enjoy a fruitful domestic campaign until he suffered an untimely injury in the third-round loss to the Stormers.
Up until that point, Fouche had been in fantastic form, scoring 11 points against the Cheetahs, 12 against Griquas and 13 against the Stormers. Over and above his form off the kicking tee, Fouche’s tactical kicking was also a massive weapon for the Pumas.
His absence from the team certainly had an impact, as it took teammate Devon Williams a few games to settle on the move to flyhalf from fullback and during that period, the Pumas looked out of sorts.
Zak Burger (Griquas)
Possibly Griquas’ most consistent player, Burger has built on his promising first couple of seasons with Kimberley-based side and took the step up into a leadership role with the team, captaining them for the majority of their campaign in the absence of flyhalf George Whitehead.
Aside from his throwback mullet hairdo, the 22-year-old former Junior Springbok caught the eye with his crisp service from the breakdown, while he was never shy to test an opposition defence around the fringes of the ruck.
Eduan Keyter (Griquas)
Together with fullback James Verity-Amm, 24-year-old wing Keyter has led the way for Griquas’ attack this season, scoring four tries in the Currie Cup, including a brace against the Pumas.
Most impressive about Keyter has been his work rate off the ball, as the former Maties player has constantly looked for work away from his wing and put in some big tackles defensively.
Devon Williams (Pumas)
Potentially the Pumas player of the season, Williams started the domestic season with a couple of excellent displays at fullback, but following Fouche’s injury, found himself having to quickly adjust to playing at flyhalf.
While his form took a slight blip as a result, especially when he committed a couple of inexplicable errors in a heavy loss to the Sharks, Williams quickly bounced back with some excellent performances against the Cheetahs, Griquas and Vodacom Bulls.
It was during that final game in Pretoria that Williams showed what a livewire he can be at flyhalf, especially when given the space to run the ball and step his way past defenders. The 28-year-old has also showed a maturity about his tactical kicking, with his booming boot helping the Pumas make significant inroads into opposition territory.
Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas)
While he is prone to flashes of hot-headedness, Engelbrecht has arguably enjoyed his finest domestic campaign yet, putting in a number of bruising displays for the Pumas at No 8.
The 28-year-old has been a mainstay in a pack that has been chopped and changed throughout the season, making his impact felt as a strong tackler, powerful carrier and a handy option when it comes to the lineout.
Engelbrecht’s passion for his team was clearly evident this season, as he put in a major shift against the Bulls despite suffering a personal tragedy through the death of his father just hours before the match kicked off.
Gideon van der Merwe (Griquas)
Anybody who watched Van der Merwe play for North-West University in the Varsity Cup in 2019 can tell you that he is the rugby equivalent of the Incredible Hulk, thriving when it comes to contact situation.
At 94kg, the 25-year-old might not be the most sizeable loose forward in the country, but more than makes up for it with his tigerish approach to ball-carrying and defending.
Van der Merwe has also given his opponents a massive headache at the breakdown and will be hoping to kick on when Griquas return to action this year.
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images