Whiteley, Wentzel ‘win’ for SA
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Skippers Warren Whiteley (Lions) and Marco Wentzel of the Sharks have recaptured a morsel of respect for South Africa’s Super Rugby cause this year by ending atop individual statistical categories after completion of ordinary season at the weekend.
The tireless Lions No 8 had long been bossing the competition-wide list for most tackles, and even despite a bye for his team in the final round finished easily top of the pile: he pulled off a staggering 231, a full 43 clear of second-placed compatriot Boom Prinsloo (188).
The Cheetahs open-sider ended his campaign on a personal high, earning man-of-the-match award for his role in the visitors’ 42-29 triumph over the Bulls at Loftus, effecting several turnovers and also making enough tackles to overtake Whiteley’s Lions loose forward colleague Warwick Tecklenburg (183).
Somehow a trio of South Africans ruling the tackle count seems to fall in line with the general trend of teams from our conference being on the back foot too much, in a season which saw a lone SA side in the Stormers making the six-team playoffs.
But the country did boast another winner in a slightly less defensively-minded department: Sharks veteran Wentzel, who ruled the lineout skies – he managed 75 safe grabs at an average of 4.68 per match as the 36-year-old featured in all 16 ordinary-season games.
Runner-up in that area was the Reds’ Jake Schatz with 63 takes.
Not too many South Africans featured strongly in the categories most relevant to backline play; just for example, no player from these shores even cracked the top 10 for “most carries”.
Damian de Allende (Stormers) does pop up among the leading groups in “defenders beaten” (64), coming in second behind Israel Folau of the Waratahs on 68, and sneaks a joint-10th finish for his 23 offloads – again Folau tops the pile with 37.
A pleasing aspect in terms of the future is 21-year-old Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel (1,232m) ending second to Folau (1,606) for metres earned.
The top try-scorer in the pre-playoffs phase ended up being TJ Perenara, scrumhalf for the comfortably table-topping Hurricanes, with 10. Cheetahs tearaway flank Prinsloo was joint-third on eight.
But in terms of total tries across the three conferences, the South African one ended up being the lightest with a combined 183 across the five teams – the NZ conference registered 237 and the Aussie one 190.
Our best individual try-scoring team was the Cheetahs with 44, placing them sixth overall.
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