Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen faces off against Sharks enforcer JJ van der Mescht during the Currie Cup Final. Photo: Steve Haag/ BackpagePix
Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen faces off against Sharks enforcer JJ van der Mescht during the Currie Cup Final. Photo: Steve Haag/ BackpagePix

Currie Cup Team of the Season: ‘Baby monster’ Van der Mescht has that enforcer streak

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Feb 3, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – While the Bulls clinched their 24th Currie Cup title by beating the Sharks last weekend, who were the top individual performers overall?

We had a go at picking a Currie Cup Team of the Season – let us know who you would choose on social media…

15 Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)

FILE - Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi. Photo: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency. ( ANA ).

He only returned from injury after Christmas and played just four games, but such was Fassi’s impact on the Sharks that he still makes this team. He is a true footballer, able to run it back from deep, launch and catch up-and-unders, and come into the backline on attack.

Honourable mention: Tiaan Swanepoel (Lions)

14 Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)

Having recovered from injury and Covid-19, Nkosi underlined his class with a brace on his comeback against the Pumas. Despite the Sharks seldom using their backline on attack, the Springbok speedster was always a threat with ball-in-hand – as he showed in the final with a superb finish – chased box-kicks with great fervour, and defended stoically.

Honourable mention: Angelo Davids (Western Province)

13 Stedman Gans (Bulls)

The former Blitzbok star was a throwback to the outside centres of yesteryear – he had so much time on the ball, a devastating sidestep, and tremendous pace. His sevens skills also ensured he anticipated the play smartly. It was a huge pity that a hamstring niggle kept him out of the semi-final and final.

Honourable mention: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)

12 Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)

FILE - Bulls centre Cornal Hendricks goes up against Lions captain Elton Jantjies during their Currie Cup semi-final clash at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

The fairytale story of the season. Moving from right wing to inside centre was a gamble, but it paid off. The former Springbok No 14 took on the defence with great success, engaging defenders and creating space for his centre partner Gans, while he was rock-solid in defence too.

ALSO READ: Currie Cup final star Cornal Hendricks: Strength of the wolf is the strength of the pack

Honourable mention: Frans Steyn (Cheetahs)

11 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls)

He was laid low by injury and Covid-19 protocols during the Currie Cup, but Arendse was a stand-out performer in Super Rugby Unlocked, and continued in that vein in the Currie Cup. It looked like something would happen whenever he got the ball on attack, and his willingness to get stuck in on defence was admirable.

Honourable mention: Yaw Penxe (Sharks)

10 Morné Steyn (Bulls)

Morne Steyn of the Vodacom Bullsduring the 2020/21 Carling Black Label Currie Cup game between the Vodacom Bulls and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 05 December 2020 Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

The way in which he marshalled the Bulls backline took us back to the 2009 Super Rugby-winning side. In fact, Steyn was arguably better this time at the age of 36. He mixed up his play cleverly between little chips over the top, spreading the ball wide, up-and-unders and long kicks downfield.

Honourable mention: Curwin Bosch (Sharks)

9 Ivan van Zyl (Bulls)

Ivan van Zyl has been revitalised this season, and part of it comes from working with Fourie du Preez for a short while each week. The six-cap Springbok has been decisive with everything he does, whether it’s a box-kick, clearing from the base or sniping around the fringes.

Honourable mention: Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks)

8 Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)

FILE - Blue Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen during their Currie Cup clash against Western Province at Newlands in November. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

When Vermeulen rejoined the Bulls, the expectation may have been that he would only play in the ‘big games’ in order to manage his workload. But the Springbok No 8 soldiered on, playing in most of the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup matches, and producing inspirational displays and strong leadership.

ALSO READ: Arno Botha scores at the death as Bulls win Currie Cup Final against Sharks in extra time

Honourable mention: Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Sharks)

7 Vincent Tshituka (Lions)

The Lions loose forward has an incredible work-rate and is a consistent performer. Tshituka forces his way over the advantage line, while stopping the opposition from crossing it. He is a solid lineout jumper as well, while he also fights hard for the ball on the ground.

Honourable mention: Elrigh Louw (Bulls)

6 Marco van Staden (Bulls)

Marco van Staden of the Bulls during the 2020 Super Rugby game between the Bulls and the Highlanders at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on 7 March 2020 © BackpagePix

The man nicknamed ‘Eskom’ (for tackling your lights out) has regained the tenacity in his play that made him a Springbok before. In fact, he is an even better player – in addition to his ball-scavenging skills at the breakdowns, Van Staden has become a strong ball-carrier too.

Honourable mention: Andisa Ntsila (Cheetahs)

5 Ruan Nortjé (Bulls)

Not much was known about the 22-year-old former SA Under-20 second-rower at senior level before this season, but he made everyone sit up and take notice with his grinding, efficient performances. Nortjé ran the Bulls lineout with aplomb alongside Duane Vermeulen, and got stuck in on defence and cleaned-out rucks.

Honourable mention: Marvin Orie (Lions)

4 JJ van der Mescht (Sharks)

Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen faces off against Sharks enforcer JJ van der Mescht during the Currie Cup Final. Photo: Steve Haag/ BackpagePix

The baby monster stands at 2.00m, weighs 127kg and is just 21 years old! And Van der Mescht has made his presence felt in no uncertain terms. He bashes through tackles, and knocks defenders out of the way when carrying the ball – he has that enforcer streak that all No 4s should possess.

Honourable mention: Darrien Landsberg (Pumas)

3 Frans Malherbe (Western Province)

Perhaps understandably not as active as he was in his younger days, but the 29-year-old still gets around the park and makes his tackles. And of course, he doesn’t go back in a scrum, and won several penalties as well this season. Just edges out Trevor Nyakane on his set-piece performances.

Honourable mention: Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)

2 Bongi Mbonambi (Western Province)

Some of the World Cup Bok stars haven’t quite been the same, but Mbonambi has been pretty close to that level. Industrious as ever at maul time and at the breakdowns, and a powerful ball-carrier. Was let down by a skew couple of crucial lineout throws, though.

Honourable mention: Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls)

1 Steven Kitshoff (Western Province)

Western Province prop Steven Kitshoff during their Currie Cup qualifier against the Pumas at Newlands Rugby in December. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Kitshoff was one of the top three – if not the best – players of the season. He was immense in the scrums, was as dominant as ever in charging upfield with ball-in-hand, and threw his body around in defence. Also led WP well in the absence of Siya Kolisi.

Honourable mention: Boan Venter (Cheetahs)

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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