Vodacom Super 14

SA team of the Super14

2010-06-02 08:38
Pierre Spies (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – It has been arguably the best season yet for South Africa in the Vodacom Super 14, so Sport24 thought we’d honour it further by picking the country’s standout performers in each position.

Please note that this is not intended to be some sort of “Springbok” side: it is based entirely on respective player fortunes in the Super 14 itself.

Chief writer Rob Houwing picked the backs and publisher/editor Tank Lanning the forwards.

The team was always likely to be dominated by Bulls and Stormers stars, along with the odd bolt from the blue, but readers are welcome to suggest where they agree or disagree … Just go easy on those rotten tomatoes!

Sport14 SA team of the Super14:

15 - Joe Pietersen (Stormers)

A close call from the Bulls’ dependable Zane Kirchner, who was a key component in the champions’ excellent tactical kicking game. But Pietersen, we felt, made the strongest personal strides this year. Diminutive but extremely brave, he did not shirk the dirty work and was elusive on the attack and positionally sound. Short- to medium-range place-kicking very much on a northward curve, too. Honourable mention for the Sharks’ up-and-coming Pat Lambie …

14 - Gio Aplon (Stormers)

Another tight one, because baby-faced speedster Gerhard van den Heever showed he’s an ace finisher and generally the real deal for the Bulls. But Aplon’s sometimes magical gap-taking and weaving and swerving between defenders gave the Stormers backline some vital X-factor, while he was gutsy in the tackle and under the bomb despite his not ideal build. Deserved Bok call-up to play Wales.

13 - Jaque Fourie (Stormers)

The suitably tall, controller of traffic in the Stormers’ highly-effective defensive blanketing, Fourie’s experience and battery of personal skills also rubbed off on various greenhorns around him. The former Lions player scored one or two of the competition’s sexiest tries, of course.

12 - Wynand Olivier (Bulls)

Young Juan de Jongh is making fine strides in this important channel, but Olivier was a prominent figure at inside centre throughout the Bulls’ stellar campaign. Is he now better than Jean de Villiers? Some judges might argue that, although the latter is due back on these shores soon to remind everyone of his own gifts. Olivier gave valuable front-foot momentum, happily taking the ball up into contact or sometimes around it, and is now a muscular defender into the bargain.

11 - Francois Hougaard (Bulls)

Let’s not quibble, shall we, that Bryan Habana remains the rightful Springbok first choice at left wing? Yet a suspicion remains that, despite his great overall value in a maiden Super 14 at Newlands, his very best game tended to be slightly elusive. So the busy, fearless Hougaard gets the nod here, especially as he was such an influential factor in the Bulls’ home straight to the title. Man of the match in the final for the sometimes-scrumhalf was a popular choice, too.

10 - Morne Steyn (Bulls)

Yes, Peter Grant was excellent for the Stormers in just about every respect, including his trusty place-kicking and willingness to do the “Honiball”, high-pain-threshold thing physically. But it was always going to be difficult to break up the Bulls’ nine and 10! The monster-booted Steyn had a mid-season period off the boil, but came roaring back and a record solo points haul in the competition can hardly be overlooked, eh?

9 - Fourie du Preez (Bulls)

Messrs Duvenage, Kockott and Pienaar all had their moments at scrumhalf this season, but Du Preez … well, somehow he’s just a cut above, isn’t he? His calmness, ability to control a game, option-taking and canny opportunism came to the fore so often in the Bulls’ triumphant cause. Best rugby player on the planet? He’s got to be right up there.

8 - Pierre Spies (Bulls)

Honourable mention to Duane Vermeulen who has been in quite outstanding form for the Stormers. But Spies, especially in the latter and more physical games, has shed his reputation for shying away from the donkey work. A human cyborg in physique, his ball carrying is second to no other player in the land.

7 - Jacques Botes (Sharks)

Controversial to some perhaps, but based on the principle that we are selecting an out and out fetcher in this side, and surely one needs to look no further than the final, in which the Bulls dominated the breakdown, for proof of the need to play such a specialist, Botes has been outstanding in a Sharks side that struggled for a large portion of the tournament. Honourable mention to Deon Stegmann.

6 - Francois Louw (Stormers)

Louw has been the form roaming flank of the tournament, his ball carrying and defence top notch, and as such was rewarded with a Bok call up. Juan Smith gets an honourable mention for being quite outstanding in the games he played for the Cheetahs after his father’s death, while both Schalk Burger and Dewald Potgieter are both unlucky to lose out after having had very good tournaments, but in roles that included being the fetcher as well.

5 - Victor Matfield (Bulls)

Honourable mention to Andries Bekker, who reinvented his game this season to include not only the lineouts and ball carrying, but also some serious donkey work. Matfield, however, is not yet ready to be knocked of his perch as the world’s best lock. His ability to rule the roost at both the kick ins and throw ins is just uncanny.

4 - Danie Rossouw (Bulls)

No need for an honourable mention such has been the dominance of Rossouw this year. We were slightly tempted to pair Bekker with Matfield, but again stuck to the principle of selecting specialists. Rossouw has been the less flashy, but equally essential, engine in the dominant Bulls pack.

3 - Werner Kruger (Bulls)

It’s not a position in which we are massively blessed with talent, hence the recall of BJ Botha to the Bok side. WP Nel disappointed while Brok Harris (who would get our honourable mention) blew hot and cold, especially toward the letter part of the tournament. Kruger was more than solid, especially in the final, which went a long way to the Bulls winning the tournament.

2 - Gary Botha (Bulls)

Last year the Bulls suffered the ignominy of a pushover try against WP in the Currie Cup … This year they dominated the Stormers in the Super14 final. And the only difference to the Bulls pack? Gary Botha. Tiaan Liebenberg has been excellent for the Cape side, and John Smit shone when allowed back into the number 2 jersey for the Sharks, but Botha has been the beacon.

1 - Gurthro Steenkamp (Bulls)

After suffering a public humiliation playing for the Boks on their end of year tour last year, Steenkamp seemed to have learnt his lesson and did not “Opt out” of scrums in the Super14, but rather added to the power. His ball carrying and incredible defence remain intact to make him a fine player. Honourable mentions to Tendai Mtawarira and Wicus Blaauw, and John Smit was not the worst when playing loosehead for the Sharks, but his musical chair selections count against him.

Click HERE to see the team voted by Sport24 readers to be the SA team of the tournament.

Read more on:    rob houwing  |  tank lanning  |  super 14

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