Home competition discipline SA’s United Rugby Championship stars who have sizzled this season

SA’s United Rugby Championship stars who have sizzled this season

101

The United Rugby Championship is drawing to a dramatic end as three South African teams jostle for places in the quarter-finals while the Sharks are readying themselves for the Challenge Cup final. We look at four players who stood out over the weekend in advancing their teams’ cause.

The Vodacom Bulls’ Cameron Hanekom during the European Rugby Champions Cup, quarter-final at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton on 13 April 2024. Picture: ASHLEY WESTERN, Colorsport, Shutterstock (14432248d)

The United Rugby Championship is drawing to a dramatic end as three South African teams jostle for places in the quarter-finals while the Sharks are readying themselves for the Challenge Cup final.

Here, Mike Greenaway looks at four players who stood out over the weekend in advancing their teams’ cause.

JC Pretorius

The Player of the Match in the Lions’ defeat of Cardiff was outstanding in his breakdown work, support play and carries. So much so that there are growing comparisons with Springbok Kwagga Smith.

The similarities are uncanny. Both attended HTS Middelburg in Mpumalanga. Both forged their reputations at Neil Powell’s successful Blitzboks set-up, their physiques are almost the same, and both can change the course of matches by upping the tempo.

Siya Masuku

The impact Masuku is having at the Sharks begs the question: What took them so long to pick him?

He was in the background in Durban for some time before John Plumtree gave him his break and the Sharks’ have barely lost since. Okay, there are other factors but the way Masuku attacks the advantage line to bring his centres and the support play into the game has made a big difference. Curwin Bosch played much deeper and it gave the defenders an advantage. The Sharks lost to Benetton but that was hardly the flyhalf’s fault as injured players dropped all around him. Don’t be surprised if he is rested this week for the Cardiff game to ensure he is fit for the final.

Ben-Jason Dixon

The Stormers looked ordinary at best for most of their game against the Dragons and appeared to be heading for defeat before some fine cameos by Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Angelo Davids, who both scored twice.

But they wouldn’t have been in the position to score had it not been for the hard yards put in by some of the forwards, notably flanker Dixon. He makes tackle after tackle and hits rucks incessantly.

His appetite for industry has kept the more flamboyant Hacjivah Dyimani on the bench. It works for the Stormers to have a hard-working loose trio in Evan Roos, Dixon and Marcel Theunissen and introduce flair later in the game. Dixon’s influential play at flank makes it difficult to see him being moved back to lock in a hurry.

Cameron Hanekom

It is not impossible that Cameron Hanekom could play for Wales against the Springboks in their friendly in June.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The 21-year-old has a Welsh grandmother and Warren Gatland would give an essential part of his anatomy to lure the Bulls No.8 to the Welsh Valleys. But the chances of Rassie Erasmus giving Gatland – his old enemy from the British & Irish Lions series of 2021– that pleasure are close to nil.

And it has nothing to do with thwarting Gatland but rewarding Hanekom for his exceptional skills as a loose forward.

At this point he is probably heading the queue to replace Duane Vermeulen, although Evan Roos might put up a hand in disagreement. Hanekom is the find of this URC season because of his all-round ability.

He is diverse – he carries hard but also looks for space. He has a great ability to read the game, and that’s why he will be in green and not red next month.

Previous articleBinder’s battles continue despite late surge at Le Mans
Next articleTricky Spurs trip will put premature title celebration on hold for Sky Blues