HEROES OF THE WEEK: Speed and power reign

rugby15 May 2024 14:40| © SuperSport
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© SuperSport

It was a weekend of mixed results for South African teams in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, but there were no shortages of brilliant individual performances. Here is our selection for Heroes of the Week.

Hollywoodbets Sharks Hero of the Week: Aphelele Fassi

The positivity towards Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi’s quest to get back into the Springbok reckoning was probably blunted quite a bit by his poor defensive and positional performance against Clermont-Auvergne in the EPCR Challenge Cup semifinal in London.

So it was good to see him get back on the horse in this past weekend’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against Benetton. The Sharks’ wrap-around attack in the first half was probably the one big positive they could take from a disappointing overall performance, and Fassi was at the heart of that.

His threat from the back can certainly not be underestimated, and apart from the try he scored when he was put in space by a superb long pass was not his only strong contribution and he came within millimetres of scoring two more tries, one such attempt being stopped by a stupendous tackle.

DHL Stormers Hero of the Week: Warrick Gelant

The Stormers fullback received a lot of criticism earlier in the season for his apparent gung ho approach to running the ball back from positions where it would be better to take other options, and there are still occasionally elements of that, but since he returned from an injury after the festive season he has been arguably the Stormers’ most consistent player.

His safety under the high ball was worth gold in some matches, most notably against the Sharks in Durban, and in this game it was his deft attacking skills as well as his great positioning sense that saved the Stormers. His kick onto Angelo Davids in the first half netted the Stormers a seven pointer at a time all the momentum was against them and effectively changed the game in the Stormers’ favour.

And it was Gelant’s good draw and pass that sent Davids in again down the left touchline for the decisive score that regained the Stormers the lead in the 67th minute and put them on the path to an important bonus point victory.

Vodacom Bulls Hero of the Week: Ruan Vermaak

For a long time, Ruan Vermaak was seen as an up and coming hybrid forward, a four-seven player who could feature on all sides of the scrum. But out of sight and out of mind he joined Johan Ackermann in Japan and then found his way back to the Bulls where he went about his business under the radar.

It is no secret that the Bulls have struggled for a dominant four lock since Walt Steenkamp took up a contract in Japan as well and Vermaak has fulfilled that role to a tee.

On Saturday against log leaders Glasgow Warriors he came into his own. In short, he was everywhere, he made the second most tackles, hit the most rucks and was second in terms of dominant tackles. His linking play, his physicality and even a turnover showed why the Bulls believe in him so much and why he is so highly rated.

In a game that the Bulls dominated for 60 minutes, there were many heroes, but Vermaak, in his man of the match performance, stands out.

Emirates Lions Hero of the Week: Emmanuel Tshituka

JC Pretorius has shown what he can add to the Lions and on a day where they were on top, once again claimed a man of the match award and very nearly stole the hero award as well. But given the context of the game, where the Lions’ halftime lead was whittled away by a determined Cardiff side, the emergence as a super sub for Emmanuel Tshituka made him an easy choice.

A beauty of a line break from his own line, some dominant tackles and two tries - the first from a rolling maul and the second from a turnover kick from Erich Cronje saw his side to a crucial bonus point and kept their hopes of a top eight place alive.

Tshituka’s short burst onto the scene may have been on a platform laid by the rest of the team but he was the impetus they needed at the right time to get them the win and the bonus point and for that he claims our hero of the week award.