CAPE TOWN - This past weekend's Rainbow Cup action was largely defined by the front-row battles between the Sharks Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit and the Stormers Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe; and Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka of the Bulls and the Lions' Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie.
In the Sharks v Stormers game, it was a real tussle with Nche increasing his stock in particular with a solid scrummaging display, but it was the Lions pair of Sithole and Sadie that served notice. For a second week in a row, they outscrummed Springbok opposition, and their display went a long way in the Lions finally claiming a victory in the tournament, and the trio are my pick based on both those reasons.
15 Damian Willemse (Stormers), 14 Madosh Tambwe (Bulls), 13 Wandisile Simelane (Lions), 12 Burger Odendaal (Lions), 11 Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers), 10 Curwin Bosch (Sharks), 9 Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks), 8 Duane Vermeulen (Bulls), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), 6 Vincent Tshituka (Lions), 5 Marvin Orie (Stormers), 4 JD Schickerling (Stormers), 3 Carlu Sadie (Lions), 2 Jaco Visagie (Lions), 1 Sti Sithole (Lions)
My Springbok form team is picked for a fictional Test match on Saturday and is based on players currently in action in South Africa and Europe, or who have recently completed seasons in Japan.
This week, I have been able to for the first time pick players that are finding their form after comebacks from injury, such as Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Handre Pollard.
The fact that the above three all played well over the weekend will have brought a smile to the face of Bok coach Jacques Nienaber. Kolisi has been something of a worry because he had played so little until moving to the Sharks two months ago, but he has now played four solid games in a row, and against his old team at Kings Park on Saturday took a big step up, including making some turnovers and doing well to set up a try for Yaw Penxe.
Nienaber will also be pleased to hear that Makazole Mapimpi has returned to the Sharks from Japan and coach Sean Everitt says he is in excellent shape and ready to rumble.
Mike’s team: 15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Handre Pollard 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (capt) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff.
It may not have been all good, but it certainly was an interesting weekend of PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA action.
In the first game of the weekend, the Stormers left it late, with replacement flyhalf Tim Swiel slotting another late penalty to claim the game for the Stormers at Kings Park (25-22) and make it two out of four.
In the other game, the Lions secured their first win of the season by beating the Bulls 34-33, handing Jake White’s men their defeat in the competition and throwing the race wide open.
Springbok star Duane Vermeulen emerged as one of the few solid performers in the Bulls outfit at the weekend and comes in at No 8 on this list. In the front row, it may have been a tough spell for the Stormers in the first 30 minutes or so, but they more than made up for it as the game progressed.
15 Damian Willemse 14 Edwill van der Merwe 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Burger Odendaal 11 Yaw Penxe 10 Fred Zeilinga 9 André Warner 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi 5 Marvin Orie 4 JD Schickerling 3 Frans Malrherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff
Despite the retirement of Tendai Mtawarira, there is no shortage of candidates waiting in line for the Springbok No 1 jersey.
Steven Kitshoff was Mtawarira’s understudy in Japan, but in recent weeks, a number of candidates have tried to show Bok coach Jacques Nienaber that they are also ready for Test rugby.
Last week it was Bulls loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka against the Sharks, and this time it was Ox Nche, who played out of his skin in the Durbanites’ defeat to the Stormers.
Nche won his overall scrum battle against Bok tighthead Frans Malherbe, scored a try and made big contributions around the pitch as well.
Lions No 1 Sti Sithole was also strong in the scrums against Bulls tighthead Trevor Nyakane.
On the other side of the front row, Lions No 3 Carlu Sadie continued his powerful scrummaging against Gqoboka.
But while many of the overseas-based Boks are still flourishing, Hendrikse brothers Jaden and Jordan are catching the eye in the Rainbow Cup SA.
Ashfak Mohamed’s Springbok Form Team
15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Morné Steyn 9 Jaden Hendrikse 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Marco van Staden 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Carlu Sadie 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche.
Ashfak Mohamed’s Rainbow Cup SA Form Team
15 David Kriel 14 Madosh Tambwe 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Burger Odendaal 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Jordan Hendrikse 9 Jaden Hendrikse 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé 4 JJ van der Mescht 3 Carlu Sadie 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche.