DYLAN JACK identifies the standout South African players based on performances in the third round of Super Rugby Unlocked.
The Stormers continued their unbeaten start to the season with another come-from-behind effort to narrowly beat the Pumas 42-37 in a thrilling encounter in Nelspruit. Meanwhile, on Saturday the Vodacom Bulls recovered from a sluggish start to the competition to overwhelm and outplay the Sharks for a 41-14 bonus-point victory in Pretoria.
Unfortunately, players from the Lions and Cheetahs do not feature in this week’s team after their scheduled match in Johannesburg on Saturday was called off due to Covid-19 protocols.
Given that they were very unlucky not to come away from the Mbombela Stadium with a win, the Pumas have five players featured in this week’s team. Devon Williams edges Warrick Gelant and David Kriel for the fullback spot after a composed display against the Stormers, where he kept his pack going forward with some well-placed kicks, putting boot to ball 16 times on Friday evening. There is also a place for wing Neil Maritz, who scored a brace of tries for the Pumas, and centre Wayne van der Bank after he was named man of the match this weekend following a performance which included a try, try assist, 56 running metres from nine carries, four defenders beaten and two clean breaks.
The Bulls have the joint-most representatives in the team (six) following what was easily their most complete performance of the early Jake White era. Stedman Gans gets in after his brace against the Sharks, as does the halfback pair of Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl.
Edwill van der Merwe is the only Stormers player in the backline after he made the most of a rare start, making 94m from six carries and beating eight defenders.
In the pack, Jeandre Rudolph just edges Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen for the No 8 spot to prevent it from being an all-Bulls back row. Despite slightly blemishing his personal record after being shown a yellow card in the second half, Rudolph outplayed opposite number Juarno Augustus, picking up a try and a try assist, while also making a massive total 66m, with nine carries and two linebreaks. Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden – another who scored two tries – do both make it into the loose trio.
Pumas captain Pieter Janse van Vuren is in the second row with Salmaan Moerat after terrorising the Stormers’ lineout. Moerat features after a forceful showing in open play, beating one defender and making 14 tackles.
There are a further two Stormers players in the front row, who join Trevor Nyakane after he helped turn the scrum battle in the Bulls’ favour off the bench in the 30th minute. Debutant prop Leon Lyons gets in after an impressive performance in his first start, with six carries and 12 tackles. Bongi Mbonambi is at hooker after his try helped continued the Stormers’ late fightback in Nelspruit.
SUPER RUGBY UNLOCKED TEAM OF THE WEEK (Round 3)
15 Devon Williams (Pumas)
14 Neil Maritz (Pumas)
13 Stedman Gans (Bulls)
12 Wayne van der Bank (Pumas)
11 Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers)
10 Morne Steyn (Bulls)
9 Ivan van Zyl (Bulls)
8 Jeandre Rudolph (Pumas)
7 Elrigh Louw (Bulls)
6 Marco van Staden (Bulls)
5 Pieter Janse van Vuren (Pumas)
4 Salmaan Moerat (Stormers)
3 Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)
2 Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers)
1 Leon Lyons (Stormers)
*Note: Griquas had a bye in round two and the match between the Lions and Cheetahs was called off.
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images