Stormers star Dan du Plessis takes center stage in our South African European Champions Cup Team of the Weekwrites Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The Cape franchise were the only South African victors in the final round of the pool stage at the weekend, booking their Round of 16 berths with a 30-16 bonus-point win over Clermont at DHL Stadium on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the Sharks – who’d already qualified for the last 16 – were outgunned 39-29 by Harlequins in a thrilling encounter at Twickenham Stoop.
Up first were the Bulls, who endured a freaky Friday that ended in a 31-7 loss to French hosts Lyon in the snow. Fortunately for the men from Pretoria, they were still able to advance to the knockouts.
A half-dozen Stormers and Sharks earned selection, with a trio of Bulls completing our team.
15 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)
Injected himself into the action, running for a match-high 141 meters and winning two turnovers. Good anticipation to intercept Toby Arnold’s pass and great gas to outsprint the fullback and Josiah Maraku to score the Bulls’ only try.
14: Marnus Potgieter (Sharks)
Shades of Dean Hall. Sat down Danny Care to create a cracking try for Jaden Hendrikse, made a similar surge in the second half and had a try disallowed. Also won back a box kick. A powerhouse performance.
13 Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)
One bad defensive blunder aside, Am was his influential self. He rounded off the Sharks’ thrilling first try and made a try-saving tackle on Josh Bassett.
12: Dan du Plessis (Stormers) – Player of the Week
Continued his rich vein of form with a sterling Man of the Match performance. He gave the Stormers much-needed go-forward ball in the first half and turned on the style to score a beautiful try in the second.
11 David Kriel (Bulls)
Thaakir Abrahams had a good game that he started with a great try assist for Am but his decision to grubber down Nick David’s gullet from a break resulted in the try that took the Sharks out of the game. Angelo Davids leaked a try and had few opportunities. Kriel did and threatened as he made 63 meters from seven carries.
10: Jean-Luc du Plessis (Stormers)
One of the super subs who changed the clash in Cape Town. Made an immediate impact with his deft grubber forcing Anthony Belleau into conceding a yellow card. Perfect crosskick to Suleiman Hartzenberg and chipped and re-gathered himself.
9: Herschel Jantjies (Stormers)
Give the Stormers the spark they lacked in the first half with his arriving early in the second. Lightning-quick and dangerous, he did extremely well to score a scorcher and was brave on defence.
8: Nizaam Carr (Bulls)
Gave his all in the losing cause for the full 80 minutes. A true trooper. Made 11 tackles and his 27 meters from eight carries was the joint most by a Bulls forward along with Marco van Staden.
7: Evan Roos (Stormers)
In his first game since November, he was a beast unleashed off the bench. His leg-driving try with his first touch of the ball was the turning point of the game.
6: Deon Fourie (Stormers)
A rapid pit bull. Prominent, double-tough and technically superb at the breakdown, where he won two penalties, and burrowed over for the bonus-point try. A strong candidate for Man of the Match.
5: Gerbrandt Grobler (Sharks)
He may not look it with the man bun, but he’s a tough customer. A gash to the head after fielding the kick-off didn’t stop him from flying into collisions relentlessly. A towering figure in the lineout, where he made a crucial steal in his 22 of him.
4: Eben Etzebeth (Sharks)
Excellent alertness and understanding of the law to catch Joe Marler slipping his shoulder bind and score a great pickpocket try. Top work rate, forcing a knock-on with his competing of box kicks and deft offloads like the key ball in the disallowed try.
3: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Won his heavyweight showdown with Joe Marler in the scrums. The Sharks’ first try came from him earning the turn and he earned another three points with a penalty, while he also won a crucial turnover on his try line in the 25th minute.
2: Joseph Dweba (Stormers)
Not flawless as there were a few scrappy lineouts but a strong overall effort, which saw him make thunderous hits and was highlighted by an outstanding offload to Du Plessis for the centre’s try.
1: Ox Nche (Bulls)
The big man was everywhere. He was the Durbanites’ most prolific ball-carrying forward with seven hit-ups and made as many tackles in a loaded 54-minute showing that included winning a scrum penalty.
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