Following an absorbing weekend of United Rugby Championship (URC) quarter-final action, we have selected our team of the last-eight.
The Stormers and Munster lead the way in terms of representation in our line-up as they boast four players apiece, with Connacht on three, Leinster two and the Sharks and Bulls rounding out the team.
Without further ado, here’s our quarter-final XV. Make sure to have your say in the comments section.
United Rugby Championship Team of the Quarter-Finals
15 Hugo Keenan (Leinster): The cliche attached to Keenan is that he never really has a bad game, but against the Sharks, he was brilliant. The Durban-based side constantly tested him under the high ball, and he came out on top on every occasion. He added pace into the backline at the ideal moment and kicked well too. Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran was solid at the back for his side, while Damian Willemse had flashes of brilliance for the Stormers and Mike Haley was solid for Munster.
14 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls): The Stormers controlled most of the clash in Cape Town, but there was one shining star in the match, and he claims the right-wing role. Arendse was brilliant in all areas of the game, making excellent reads on defence while being incredible under the high ball. He sparked the Bulls’ attack at times, but his teammates could just not capitalise. Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune was also excellent in defeat.
13 Antoine Frisch (Munster): What a signing he has been for the Irish outfit, Frisch combined wonderfully on attack and defence against Glasgow as Munster claimed a hard-fought victory, with the 26-year-old crossing the whitewash in a hearty performance.
12 Dan du Plessis (Stormers): What a season it has been for Du Plessis, who has cemented his place in the Stormers midfield. He bossed every area of his game against the Bulls and was crucial to his side’s victory. He edges Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey and Munster’s Malakai Fekitoa to a spot in the side.
For someone who's been so injury prone in recent years, the way Dan du Plessis still rips into contact tells you everything you need to know about him…
— Simnikiwe Xabanisa (@simxabanisa) May 6, 2023
11 Mack Hansen (Connacht): It wasn’t a game for the wingers on Friday evening but Hansen still managed to make his mark on the fixture. He led the way on attack, gaining more metres than any of his teammates, while his contesting of the high ball and ability to keep the ball in the field played a big role in the game’s outcome. Glasgow captain Kyle Steyn was industrious against Munster and unlucky not to get a look in on either wing, while Leolin Zas and Dave Kearney shone for the Stormers and Leinster respectively.
10 Manie Libbok (Stormers): A masterful performance from the Springboks pivot who guided his side to victory. Libbok was flawless from the tee and had a hand in just about every one of his side’s three tries. He is back to his peak at a crucial time for his side. Leinster’s Harry Byrne marshalled his side around the Aviva Stadium well while Jack Crowley stepped up key moments for Munster.
9 Herschel Jantjies (Stormers): There were several candidates for the number nine jersey, with Craig Casey doing a stellar job after Conor Murray’s injury while Grant Williams was a standout in a poor Sharks performance. However, Jantjies gets the nod after playing a starring role alongside Libbok as their game management and kicking game steered the Stormers to victory.
8 Caelan Doris (Leinster): The Leinsterman is in unreal form at the moment, and he showed it against the Sharks. He thundered into Makazole Mapimpi to open the scoring and got over the gain line with every carry. The number eight jersey was hotly contested, but Doris beats Stormers’ star Evan Roos to a spot in the side.
⭐️ Your #BKTURC Player of the Match ⭐️
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) May 6, 2023
7 Shamus Hurley-Langton (Connacht): The shock victory over Ulster was led by Connacht’s brilliance at the breakdown, and Hurley-Langton was the best of the lot. He came out on top in most of his collisions, won two turnovers and shone with ball in hand, doing enough to beat the Stormers’ flanker Deon Fourie, Leinster’s Max Deegan and Glasgow’s Rory Darge.
6 Gavin Coombes (Munster): Harsh on his teammate Tadhg Beirne who was sensational on his return from injury, but we have shifted Coombes to the flank to fit into our team after Doris’ brilliance. The Munster star led the defensive charge and made crucial interventions to see his side over the line. Stormers’ Hacjivah Dayimani and Glasgow’s Matt Fagerson came close in our makeshift back-row of the three man of the matches.
5 Marvin Orie (Stormers): The Bulls have built a reputation for their excellent lineouts and mauls in the URC, but they weren’t nearly as accurate on Saturday, with Orie making his presence known, pressuring both areas of the game while topping the tackle count for his side. Meanwhile, Jason Jenkins and Richie Gray were the other standouts.
4 Jean Kleyn (Munster): It was a dogfight in the final quarter-final match on Saturday, and after Peter O’Mahony was forced off, Kleyn was the biggest dog on the pitch. He seldom gets the plaudits for his efforts, but his relentless tackling and maul work kept Glasgow in check. Connacht’s Josh Murphy and the Bulls’ Ruan Vermaak were his closest competitors.
Another incredible performance by Jean Kleyn. Arguably Munsters best / most consistent player this season. He's in the form of his life and should really be included in the world cup squad. #GLAvMUN #BKTURC
— Daniel Montgomery (@DanMonty93) May 6, 2023
3 Stephen Archer (Munster): The veteran tighthead is racking up big performances for his side, and Saturday’s game was no different. The 35-year-old anchored his side of the scrum was almost immovable. Sharks’ tighthead Carlu Sadie put in a big shift against Leinster and comfortably got the better of his opposite number.
2 Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht): The four hookers on Friday evening all made a claim for a spot in our team, but the Connacht replacement was the pick of the lot. He secured the match-clinching turnover and was incredibly busy on defence in a clutch stint off the bench. Leinster’s Dan Sheehan was superb once again.
1 Ox Nche (Sharks): One of the few standouts from the Sharks, the Springboks’ loosehead was brilliant, dominating Tadhg Furlong in the scrum during his 60-minute shift. Ulster’s Rory Sutherland put in a hefty shift in defeat to Connacht, while Jeremy Loughman was brilliant for Munster.