United Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from the South African derbies including Manie Libbok’s excellent BMT for the Stormers
Following victories for the Sharks and Stormers over the Lions and Bulls in their South African United Rugby Championship derbies, here’s our five takeaways from the matches in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Manie Libbok’s BMT excellent for the Stormers
The Springbok fly-half showed – once again – how important he is to the Stormers’ cause when he delivered another outstanding all-round performance in his side’s 23-19 victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Libbok has been in a rich vein of form since joining the Stormers from the Sharks in 2021, and his outstanding performances have been rewarded with Springbok colours. However, Saturday’s showing was one of his best to date for the Cape Town-based side, as it was played under plenty of pressure in front of a boisterous crowd with more than 41,000 spectators in attendance.
In a game of fine margins, the 25-year-old’s playmaking skills was of its usual high standards, but it’s his big match temperament which really caught the eye as he slotted a difficult place-kick from close to the touchline, after Marcel Theunissen scored a try, and also showed nerves of steel to land a drop goal in the 72nd minute.
🎯 Plyaers like Manie Libbok keep the drop goal alive. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/zSwBHKWPaL
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) February 19, 2023
Brilliant battle between Bok back-rows
Ahead of the weekend’s clash at Loftus Versfeld, we predicted that the battle between Stormers captain Deon Fourie and fellow openside flanker Marco van Staden of the Bulls would be one not to miss, and that was certainly the case.
They did not disappoint as they went at each other hammer and tongs for most of the match before Fourie was replaced in the game’s closing stages. Both players put their bodies on the line, and no quarter was asked or given as these Springbok tearaways were at the forefront of their respective team’s attacking and defensive onslaughts.
One of the highlights of the game was when the Stormers drove off the back of a lineout deep inside Bulls territory, and they eventually crossed the whitewash with Fourie in possession at the back of the maul. He couldn’t ground the ball, however, as he was held up by Van Staden, but Fourie would have the last laugh as he finished on the winning side and also walked off with the official man-of-the-match award.
Sbu Nkosi still an attacking threat
The Springbok World Cup winner was making his first competitive appearance for the Bulls since the end of last October, but he was at ease from the outset and hit the ground running against the Stormers.
Despite initially being sidelined, Nkosi was in the news towards the end of last year when he took time out from the game due to mental health reasons, and there were concerns in some quarters whether he would be able to reach his previous heights as a rugby player.
🗣️ “He basically broke every tackle when he carried the ball and he looked like a Springbok again. It is always nice when you have that kind of player in your squad.”
🐂 Jake White commended Sbu Nkosi for his impressive return to rugby. #URChttps://t.co/vz2Ov21Hj2
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 19, 2023
However, Nkosi showed that he is still dangerous with ball in hand as he set off on several barnstorming runs and also crossed for the Bulls’ only try in the 64th minute.
Although the Bulls finished on the losing side, their director of rugby, Jake White, expressed his delight at his star wing’s return to action and after the match White said he “looked like a Springbok again”. If the 27-year-old continues to deliver similar performances to Saturday’s, it’s only a matter of time before he returns to the Bok set-up.
Lions in the midst of a crisis
The clash between the Lions and Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg will be one the home side will want to forget in a hurry, as they struggled for long periods and failed to make an impact in their backyard.
The opening 40 minutes was a dour affair as both sides struggled to find their feet, but whereas the Sharks improved as the match progressed, the opposite was true of the home side. Ivan van Rooyen’s charges failed to fire a shot in the second half and looked like they ran out of ideas after the interval.
Their cause wasn’t helped by poor goal-kicking from Gianni Lombard, who missed three routine penalties in the first half, but apart from that, they lacked direction on attack and missed several tackles on defence.
The defeat means the Lions have now lost their last five matches – after losing the corresponding fixture to the Sharks in Durban as well as matches against the Stormers, Munster and Connacht – and they are currently languishing in 14th position on the table.
Curwin Bosch back to his best
Although the Lions were their own worst enemies in Johannesburg, the Sharks were deserved winners in that encounter, and Bosch deserves plenty of praise as he delivered an excellent performance which saw him walking off with the official man-of-the-match award.
The 25-year-old was in fine form as he delivered a solid all-round performance, impressing with his game management and playmaking skills for the full 80 minutes. Bosch scored a well-taken try, and although he was off target with some shots at goal, he also succeeded with three conversions and a penalty to finish with a 14-point haul.
"inhle kakhulu, inhle Bosch." 🏉👏
Curwin Bosch threads it through to Grant Williams for the bonus point victory 🦈
FT: Emirates Lions 7-29 Cell C Sharks | Vodacom #URC pic.twitter.com/qaTOuE9xSc
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 18, 2023
He also caught the eye with excellent kicking out of hand and put his side on the front foot with several long-ranging touch finders. It was, therefore, not a surprise when he was named as the man of the match after the game. Sharks fans will be happy with Bosch’s effort, especially after he struggled with his form and injuries during last season.
READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: John Dobson proud of character shown by Stormers against Bulls