HEROES OF THE WEEK: Hard work pays off

rugby22 May 2024 08:02| © SuperSport
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The three South African teams still in the running for the Vodacom URC playoffs all registered wins over the weekend. The Sharks had 21 players unavailable, but even the had a hero of the week.

Here are our selections for the week.


It was another classic Bulls performance and another lead-from-the-front effort by Elrigh Louw. The flanker showed his class again by making the most carries, and most tackles, including the most dominant tackles in a game where the Bulls were always on the front foot. His uncompromising attitude, coupled with his determination and will for the team to succeed, has made him one of the leading players in the competition this season and on a day where the Bulls moved into the top two on the log table, he was again at the forefront of things.

While he can play anywhere in the loose trio, his emergence as a top seven flank has been one of the hallmarks of the Bulls success this season and not for the first time, helped him claim the hero of the week status for his performance.


It is tough to give a hero of the week to someone who was only on the field for 15 odd minutes, but the Sharks had already signalled their intent ahead of the Cardiff game by sending 21 players to London for their EPCR Challenge Cup game this weekend. What was left was a mishmash of players who hadn’t had game time for ages, players who were young and inexperienced and the combination made for a poor outing for the Durban team as they slumped to a big defeat at the hands of a Cardiff team that hadn’t won a game since Boxing Day last year.

But Curwin Bosch’s cameo was probably the best thing to happen to the Sharks all night. Looking relaxed and never under pressure, Bosch produced a short stint that saw him score a try and get some respectability to the scoreline.

It won’t go down as a massive performance by the standards of a long season, but on a dismal night in Durban, it was the best that the Sharks had.


There won’t be many who’d argue against the decision to make JC Pretorius the official Man of the Match in the impressive Emirates Lions win over Glasgow Warriors that kept the Johannesburg team alive in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. With the DHL Stormers missing Deon Fourie, his ball poaching abilities are the reason the Lions stand a chance in their final league match in Cape Town.

But the Lions would also not still be alive in their quest for playoff qualification were it not for the contribution made by centre Erich Cronje, who has started to come out from under the radar at Emirates Airlines Park after moving home - he was schooled at EG Jansen in Boksburg - after a few years at the Italian team, Zebre.

The 27-year-old, who first cut his teeth at senior level playing for the Southern Kings in the URC’s forerunner, the Guinness PRO14, figured prominently both as the genesis and in support roles in several of the tries the Lions scored in their scoring blitz against the previous frontrunners in the competition.

His first contribution was what commentator Hanyani Shimange described as a “classic outside centre break” to set up Rabz Maxwane’s first try. The outside centre break is actually a rarer thing than it used to be so at first look it felt like Quan Horn had made an incursion from fullback. He was responsible for Maxwane’s second try as the Lions turned the tide their way in the second half too, with his rip of the ball off a Glasgow player as the visitors built up an attack deep in Lions territory setting up a transition that led to a try at the other end of the field.

And he was up as an important ball carrier before astutely drawing the defenders to transfer inside to Pretorius for the score that effectively ended any hope of a challenge from the Scottish team. It wasn’t only in the tries that Cronje was prominent, and of course as an outside centre he’d have played an important role in the defensive effort that paved the way for the comprehensive win.


When Ruben van Heerden was playing for the Sharks he often showed signs of promise but, perhaps because he was paired with the athletic but not particularly bulky Hyron Andrews, the second row always seemed a bit lightweight in comparison to those boasted by some other South African franchises. You wouldn’t have imagined talk about him being a Springbok back then.

But as has been the case with some other players who were at the Sharks and then moved elsewhere, the Stormers’ official Man of the Match from the Connacht game in Galway Manie Libbok being a prime example, 26-year-old Van Heerden has flourished in the Cape. John Dobson’s coaching team’s ability to make players better has been advertised in neon lights by the way Van Heerden has taken to becoming a No 5 lock and the lineout leader at his new team.

He says the middle of the lineout role and No 5 jersey is what he has always aspired to, but didn’t get much opportunity elsewhere, At the Stormers, once presented with that opportunity, he has soared. Not that his lineout contribution alone is what makes him our Hero of the Match. He’s become so much more influential and prominent as a ball carrier and in both the Stormers’ away wins over first the Dragons and then Connacht it felt like every time he had the ball in his hands it brought some composure to the players around him by giving the team go forward.

South Africa is a country with a wealth of second row resources but Van Heerden has been part of Rassie Erasmus’ alignment camps and is clearly pressing for a place in the Springbok plans and the Affies old boy deserves to be in contention as the world champions look to refresh during this next World Cup cycle. That he will be a Stormers player for the length of that time after the recent announcement that he has signed a contract extension is a boost for the Cape franchise.