Arendse, Nohamba among our top 5 players in URC

Sanele Nohamba of the Emirates Lions had an excellent season, playing himself into Springbok contention. | BackpagePix

Sanele Nohamba of the Emirates Lions had an excellent season, playing himself into Springbok contention. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 12, 2024


Almost 400 players were on show in the United Rugby Championship over 18 rounds. To rise to the top of that crop takes some doing and a dream team will be hugely contentious. Instead, Mike Greenaway picks five players who he felt were outstanding.

Kurt-Lee Arendse of the Bulls. | BackpagePix

Kurt-Lee Arendse

Jake White described the loss of Arendse ahead of this week’s semi-final as “massive”, and you can understand the Bulls coach’s disappointment. Arendse has been superb this season and the race is on for the Bok medical staff to get him ready for the international season. Arendse is a fearless player despite his small dimensions. He flies into contact and often you wonder how he is going to get up. It may have been a matter of time before he picked up the injury he has. He is simply deadly with the ball and one of the game’s best finishers.

Leinster's Joe McCarthy. | EPA

Joe McCarthy

One wonders what Eben feels about the 23-year-old Irishman being described as “the next Etzebeth” but he will have a chance to show who’s boss when Ireland visit next month. The truth is that McCarthy could well live up to the billing later in his career. He was the Man of the Match in last week’s quarter-final between Leinster and Ulster and it was hardly the first time he has had that accolade this season. McCarthy is impressive because he is both robust and athletic — he made a 20m break against Ulster but also put his body literally on the line to stop a try being scored. He said afterwards that he can’t wait to “rip into the Bulls”.

Benetton's Onisi Ratave. | EPA

Onisi Ratave

All of the European rugby teams have a couple of Pacific islanders in their team and for Benetton, it is the Fijian Flier. It takes some performance to get named the Man of the Match at Loftus Versfeld in a losing team but that is what Ratave achieved in last week’s quarter-final. The 32-year-old is a fireman by trade but on the field, he is a fire starter. He is not the tallest at 1.78m but he is powerfully built at 100kg and that gives him high velocity and a low centre of gravity. He has been exceptional for Benetton all year.

Sanele Nohamba of the Lions. | Backpagepix

Sanele Nohamba

The nippy Nohamba is up against Arendse and Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom for the SA URC player of the season, to be announced on June 18. His ability to make things happen at No 9 or No 10 is invaluable and the Lions had so much innovation when they had Nohamba at No 10 and Morne van den Berg at No 9. Nohamba has also proved himself to be an accurate kicker by slotting 32 conversions, 14 penalty goals and a drop-goal. The 25-year-old’s 119 points scored during the campaign places him fourth overall.

Ruben van Heerden of the Stormers. | BackpagePix

Ruben van Heerden

Few toiled harder than Van Heerden for the good of their team. John Dobson could not sing the lock’s praises higher enough. Van Heerden, now 26, was a star for Affies, SA Schools and the SA Under-20 team but his career faltered at the Sharks where the coaches didn’t always back him. He had a very good season for Exeter in England before joining the Stormers last year and he has flourished under Dobson, a coach with a knack for getting players to realise their potential. After being invited to an alignment camp, Van Heerden will be devastated at being left out of the latest Bok squad.