URC Team of the Week: Springbok hopeful’s ‘demolishing’ shift while Benetton’s ‘great conductor’ seals top eight

Jared Wright
Neethling Fouche, Munster players and Tomas Albornoz in the United Rugby Championship.

Check out our picks for the URC Team of the Week.

Following an enthralling end to the United Rugby Championship (URC) regular season, we pick our Team of the Week from the final round of action.

There were several gripping matches as the Race to Eight concluded in dramatic style, with stars rising to the occasion to get their side over line in a photo finish.

URC Team of the Week

15 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Stormers): Jimmy O’Brien made a massive impact on his return to the Leinster starting XV but it is the Springboks hopeful who gets the nod after a stellar shift at full-back for the Stormers. The Lions troubled the Capetonians all game and it was Feinberg-Mngomezulu’s interventions that got John Dobson’s side over the line, making a crucial double try-saving tackle and assisting a try. Glasgow star Kyle Rowe was unfortunate to miss out.

14 Calvin Nash (Munster): Picked out as the Player of the Round by Simon Thomas, Nash was outstanding yet again for the defending champions as they dispatched Ulster in a mighty inter-pro derby. He grabbed a try and gained over 60 metres in the win and did just enough to beat an impressive performance from Bulls and Springboks flyer Canan Moodie in Durban.

13 Tommaso Menoncello (Benetton): The Italian star continued his outstanding form this season, powering Benetton into the URC quarter-finals with a convincing 31-6 victory over Edinburgh. His combination with Nacho Brex caused the Scottish defence all kinds of problems, and he popped up with a delightful assist and defended superbly. He edges out Munsterman Sean O’Brien, who has had a superb season, and he did not disappoint when given an opportunity to shine in his more favoured centre role. He troubled the Ulster defence all game, beating six defenders while impressing defensively, too, and dotted down for his fourth URC try this season. Connacht’s David Hawkshaw was one of the few standouts in defeat to Leinster.

Playmakers

12 Jordan Hendrikse (Lions): It was not to be for the Lions despite a strong effort to knock over the Stormers, led mainly by playmaker Hendrikse in what proved to be his final outing for the Joburgers. He was surprisingly effective when used as a crash ball option and shifted seamlessly back into the fly-half role when Sanele Nohamba was forced off the pitch. Elsewhere, Juan Ignacio Brex shone in Benetton’s comprehensive win, as did Ciaran Frawley for Leinster on Friday evening.

11 Onisi Ratave (Benetton): Player of the Match as Benetton won the Race to Eight by crushing Edinburgh, the Fijian star racked up over 130 running metres and scored a try in a memorable performance for the Italian side. He did enough to beat Cardiff star Mason Grady and Munster’s Shane Daly to a spot in our team while Kurt-Lee Arendse continued his fine form too.

10 Tomas Albornoz (Benetton): Every great orchestra needs a great conductor, and for Benetton, that was Los Pumas international Albornoz, who controlled the tempo and beat of the Italian side’s attack in an emphatic performance. There were several performances along the same lines, including standout shifts from Manie Libbok, Sam Prendergast, Sam Costelow, Siya Masuku and Jack Crowley, but in the end, it is the Argentine that gets the nod, just.

9 Craig Casey (Munster): Munster were made to work incredibly hard for their spot on top of the URC table, but they will be grateful for the performance of dynamic half-back Casey who popped up with three try assists. He fizzed a superb ball to Nash to score, and a wonderful pick up resulted in O’Brien’s try. He beat out an impressive showing from Glasgow’s Jamie Dobie.

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Loose forwards

8 Jack Conan (Leinster): Got through just half the game but the number eight’s outstanding shift set the tone for the Irish province as he scored and assisted a try, constantly getting over the gainline as Leinster led 21-0 at half-time. Glasgow powerhouse Jack Dempsey, Lions star Francke Horn and Bulls rising star Cameron Hanekom were unlucky not to crack the team.

7 Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors): There was no shortage of options in the number seven jumper with simply outstanding performances from the likes of Elrigh Louw, Justin Tipuric, Dan Davis and BJ Dixon. There was very little splitting the lot with Darge getting the nod after an impressive shift on both sides of the ball.

6 JC Pretorius (Lions): Much like the number seven jersey, there were incredible performances across the board and ultimately, the exciting Lions flanker gets the nod. He was named Player of the Match in a losing effort after scoring a try, making 12 tackles, five carries and over 30 metres in another Kwagga Smith-esque showing. The likes of Jac Morgan, Evan Roos and James Venter were all close to beating the ex-Blitzbok to the team.

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Tight five

5 Ross Molony (Leinster): A fitting farewell for the powerhouse lock Molony, who will join Bath next season. He relentlessly hammered into the Connacht pack in his last performance at the RDS Arena and was named Player of the Match for his efforts.

4 Alex Craig (Scarlets): The Scottish international beat a truly remarkable eight defenders against the Dragons in the Judgement Day clash on Saturday. However, the mighty lock’s efforts did not end there as he romped through a mountain of work at the breakdown and impressed at the lineout. He beat the likes of Leinster’s hard-working lock Brian Deeny, who made 25 tackles, while Munster’s RG Snyman also had a fine game after avoiding a visit to the sin bin.

3 Neethling Fouche (Stormers): Much of the Lions’ undoing was down to the Stormers’ power in the scrum, spearheaded by Springboks hopeful Fouche who won successive penalties in the set-piece demolishing Morgan Naude. Fellow Bok hopeful Wilco Louw put in a tidy shift against Ox Nche while Tom Botha was huge for Ospreys.

2 Akker van der Merwe (Bulls): It was a profitable weekend for the hookers with seven of them crossing for nine tries in total. Van der Merwe and Glasgow’s Johnny Matthews both grabbed two apiece in crucial wins for their side, but the South African gets the edge. Hooker was yet another hotly contested position with Johann Grobbelaar, Andre-Hugo Venter, Rob Herring, Giacomo Nicotera and Dan Sheehan impressing.

1 Nicky Smith (Ospreys): A clutch performance in what could have been his final game for the Ospreys had it not been for his scrummaging prowess and his ability to cross for two tries in a memorable Player of the Match shift. Still, he had stiff competition from the likes of Jeremy Loughman and Brok Harris.

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