MARK KEOHANE writes that Lappies Labuschagne has been the South African sensation in this year’s Super Rugby.
We’ve had six rounds of Super Rugby, which is a fair time to assess whose hot and whose not.
These are my five standout players in the first six rounds
1. Lappies Labuschagne – Cheetahs
The Cheetahs flanker has been colossal in everything he has done. His work rate makes even the most industrious loose-forward appear lazy. Lappies is making on average 20-plus tackles a match, carrying the ball effectively and adding such presence to the Cheetahs pack. He is easily my pick of the South African forwards and the pick of all the forwards in the competition this season.
2. Pieter-Stef du Toit – Sharks
The young Sharks lock, with limited initial game time, made an impression every time, but his breakthrough performance was against the Brumbies when he showed the heart, desire and pedigree the older and more experienced players in the pack couldn’t match. He was rewarded with a start against the Rebels and played with the authority of a player who had been around forever.
3. Duane Vermeulen – Stormers
He commands presence at the base and sets the tone with his physicality. He is more than just a brute, though, and he has good hands, plays well off the scrumhalf and can create with tactical awareness as much as he can impose with physicality.
4. Jacques Engelbrecht – Kings
Made a wonderful start to the tournament as a replacement for the injured Luke Watson and has excelled in a starting capacity ever since. The challenge for the Kings will be to keep him as already he is negotiating with the Bulls because of the uncertainty about the Kings’ 2014 participation.
5. Adriaan Strauss – Cheetahs
The Cheetahs captain has been inspirational in everything he has done as a player and also as a captain. He leads by example, puts his body on the line and his calmness under pressure has been impressive. He just keeps on going, even when there shouldn’t be anything left in the tank.
Heinrich Brussow, Andries Bekker and Pierre Spies have also been good, but the only backline player to show X-factor has been Gio Aplon.
Who’s your five big SA performers to date? Limit them to five. And form can be the only consideration – form that is so obviously in a class of its own.