Best of the URC: We pick SA players form team

Our team includes only six players who've featured for the Boks.

The 2023/24 season of the United Rugby Championship recently reached the halfway point with the Bulls (third) and Stormers (sixth) very much in the mix to make the playoffs, while the Lions (11th) seem to have an outside chance, but it is all over for the Sharks (16th) this season.

It has been another action-packed competition, with plenty of talking points and several players standing out, many of them winning call-ups to coach Rassie Erasmus’ first Springbok alignment camp of the year, in March in Cape Town, ahead of the new international season.

Among the uncapped players Erasmus wants a closer look at include hooker Andre-Hugo Venter, No 8 Cameron Hanekom, scrumhalf Morne van den Berg, flyhalf Sanele Nohamba, centre Henco van Wyk and fullback Quan Horn.

With the URC again on a week-long break due to the third round of the Six Nations taking place this weekend, The Citizen decided to pick a form URC team so far this season.

Quan Horn
Quan Horn of the Lions. Picture: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images

World Cup Boks

Several well-established players, including a number of World Cup-winning Springboks, didn’t make it into our team because they haven’t played enough, though this is likely to change in the coming weeks and months, now that the World Cup is over and rest periods have been taken.

Erasmus, who is back in charge as head coach of the Boks following Jacques Nienaber’s move to Ireland, will be a keen onlooker in the coming weeks and months ahead of the Boks’ first Test of the year in June, against Wales at Twickenham.

While there was mostly consensus between The Citizen’s rugby writers in most positions, there were several names put forward in other positions.

No 8 remains a very competitive position in South African rugby with, currently, little separating newcomer Hanekom (Bulls), Evan Roos (Stormers) and Francke Horn (Lions).

There are also several options at blindside, where Hacjivah Dayimani wins our vote over Elrigh Louw, and openside flank with World Cup winner Marco van Staden our pick, while Wilco Louw, Neethling Fouche and Asenathi Ntlabakanye were our options at tighthead prop.

Neethling Fouche
Stormers tighthead prop Neethling Fouche. Picture: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

Competition at the back

In the backs Papier, Van den Berg and Herschel Jantjies were the choices at scrumhalf, while the Lions’ ever-improving Nohamba edged out the Bulls’ Johan Goosen at flyhalf.

The centres were fairly easy picks based on form, there was some competition at wing, while at fullback the Lions’ Horn won the vote against Aphelele Fassi.

Lions captain Marius Louw has been a revelation since joining the Joburg team from the Sharks but just misses out now, while others such as Leolin Zas, Ruhan Nel, Stedman Gans, Mpilo Gumede and Wilco Louw have been excellent so far but haven’t played regularly due to rotation in their teams.

Our team includes six Bulls players, four Stormers players, four Lions players and one Sharks player, while only six of the 15 have played Test rugby for the Boks — Papier, Roos, Van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe and Gerhard Steenekamp.

SA player URC form team:

Quan Horn, Werner Kok, Henco van Wyk, David Kriel, Edwill van der Merwe, Sanele Nohamba, Embrose Papier, Evan Roos, Hacjivah Dayimani, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Adre Smith, Neethling Fouche, Akker van der Merwe, Gerhard Steenekamp.

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