Superheroes of 2018

The 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby season has come and gone. As such, our Fresh Take writers have logged their picks in a poll to crown South Africa’s best of the best.

Dawie Boonzaaier, Joshua Brown, Benedict Chanakira, Shaun Goosen, Devin Hermanus and Daryn Katz each nominated SA’s best performer from 1 to 15 (including an overall MVP), named their top SA coach, most telling SA victory and most impressive SA try.

Fresh Take XV (votes)
15 Warrick Gelant (6)
14 Sbu Nkosi (4)
13 Lukhanyo Am (3)
12 Damian de Allende (4)
11 Aphiwe Dyantyi (6)
10 Elton Jantjies (3)
9 Cameron Wright (2)
8 Warren Whiteley (3)
7 Jean-Luc du Preez (3)
6 Kwagga Smith (3)
5 Franco Mostert (6)
4 RG Snyman (4)
3 Wilco Louw (3)
2 Malcolm Marx (6)
1 Beast Mtawarira (4)

Not surprisingly, the SA Conference champion Lions boast the largest representation with six players, the Sharks have five, and two each for the Bulls and Stormers.

Gelant, Dyantyi, Mostert and Marx were unanimous selections, each receiving six votes.

Kwagga Smith got five votes but split those with three at openside flanker and two at No 8. That’s what broke the tie for the No 6 jersey with Bulls fetcher Marco van Staden who also received three votes.

There was also a stalemate at scrumhalf and outside centre. Dewaldt Duvenage and Cameron Wright each got two votes (the other nominees were Ivan van Zyl and Ross Cronje). Wright got the nod based on the fact that the Sharks made the playoffs while the Stormers lost to the Sunwolves.

The same thinking gave Lukhanyo Am the edge over Jesse Kriel as the Fresh Takers were divided at No 13.

Jantjies won the race to start at flyhalf, with Handre Pollard (2 votes) and Rob du Preez (1) trailing. Ben Chanakira picked Jean-Luc du Preez at No 8, but the Sharks heavy packs down on the blindside with three votes enough to deny Cyle Brink (2) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (1).

Instead it’s Whiteley at the base of a scrum that’s anchored by Wilco Louw (3 votes) who just edged Thomas du Toit (2).

Mtawarira is number one in the eyes of four Fresh Takers, with Steven Kitshoff picking up two votes. But the front row is completed by the unanimous SA MVP of 2018: Malcolm Marx.

SA Super Rugby Coach of the Year went to Swys de Bruin with 5 votes. “Silenced many doubters, including this one, who questioned whether he’d be able to fill Johan Ackermann’s large shoes,” said Joshua Brown. “He duly did.”

If you’re wondering where the sixth vote went, Devin Hermanus gave it to Sharks coach Robert du Preez on the basis that he “backed his sons as part of a 2017 Currie Cup runners-up squad with an average age of 24”, and reached the playoffs.

The Best Win by an SA team was a toss-up between the Lions blanking the Waratahs 29-0 in Sydney and the Sharks clinching a 63-40 shootout against the Blues at Eden Park.

Dyantyi was nominated by five of the six for Best Try of the season and four of those were for his audacious chip-and-collect against the Waratahs in the semi-final!

FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media. If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to

Dawie Boonzaaier: @DawiBoon
Joshua Brown: @BalcombBrown
Benedict Chanakira: @BChanakira2
Shaun Goosen: @ShaunGoosie
Devin Hermanus: @DevinMyles11
Daryn Katz: @KatzDaryn

- Fresh Take

Let's chat

  • Herman Schroder?

    No 15 for me Andries Coetzee if you are looking for the safest player under the highball a good defender and breaking the line – see SR stats.

    No 12 Damien D’Allende ??? Poorest midfield defender in the comp imo and too erratic with his distribution and his on field decisions very poor at times. Kriel or Esterhuizen a better bet.

    The two props could easily be the Lions pair who have not been dominated by anyone this season including the All Black pack that played in the final today. True story.

    So nine players from our premier team probably a more accurate reflection of the season. Cronje still probably a better bet than Wright but what the hell let’s not get greedy. Cheers.

    • Wesley

      I dont actually wanna fret too much of the picks here, kind of pretty good, but what is up with DDA? I fail to see what the scribes and the Boks have for him. Is his agent a deep undercover CIA agent? Is his family with the mafia? There must be some conspiracy… Im sorry the guy had 1 good season. 1!!! Even the aritcle here features no mention in a split or why he was chosen, skirting around the issue it seems. What the hell. No one voted Voster? Or Esterhuizen? They guy is like Jorrie. Nowhere near quality but by hook or crook gets the nod…. I must be blind…

      • Herman Schroder?

        I’m just as puzzled. Coetzee’s poster boy in the past now Rassie’s no doubt. The AB’a will love having him in the Bok team. Cheers.

        • Daniel ONeill

          you must be talking about useless jantjies

  • Barry Smith

    Wilco and DDL had very average seasons. Can’t understand either being on your list. Pieter Steph Du Toit is the sort of player you find a place for, but overlooked! At the risk of yet another emotional Lions out burst – Jantjies, certainly not, Pollard at a canter!

  • SweetAz

    Well I think the final just proved EJ is not Bok material. In fact, the entire Lions approach to this final was stupidity, as myself and Oom Rugby said the Crusaders were going to defend the hell out of their red zone by hook or by crook,—-AND SO THEY DID, giving away something like 9 penalties( I stand to be corrected). The Lions did not have the collective leadership or brainpower to come up with a plan B. Like I said and got ridiculed for it, kick for the corners, win the penalties in the red zone and kick them. If they had kicked all their penalties added to their 2 try’s they would have won this game,–easily. FFS they had 70% territory and possession.

    • John Comyn

      Which brings Whiteley’s captaincy under the spotlight. Clearly the maul was not working and Jantjies was landing his kicks at goal so yep I agree with you. Not sure if the Lions would have won but they would have stayed in touch instead of them having a bit of a cushion the entire game.

    • Barry Smith

      I made comment in other forums along this line and absolutely agree. Finals are like test matches – you take your points!!! The Lions made exactly the same mistake against the Sharks a few weeks earlier and lost that game, so why on earth did they think it would go better against the Saders with 8 All Blacks in the pack??
      There is always a need to stay in touch with the oppositions score line, by doing that you keep them honest. As soon as you allow it to drift beyond 7, the pressure decreases on them and increases on you. You’re then forced to take risks and the mistakes follow!
      Once again SA management are out thought by canny opposition

    • Wesley

      Fair to say the EJ comment is becoming more true with every high stakes game EJ plays, and im a big fan of him. But lets not talk as if the game could have been won if the penalties were kicked for posts. Thats not how the passing of time works. Once a different path is taken, the timeline doesnt run the same. And i highly doubt that the crusaders wouldnt have changed and adapted if the points were set differently on the scoreboard. Hindsight is 20 20 and you play whats infront of you.

      • SweetAz

        The penalty count was 15 to 6,—I said before the game that was going to happen the way the Crusaders defend. If they had applied scoreboard pressure by kicking 4 or 5 of those penalties the whole complexion would have changed. They didn’t have a game plan for the Crusaders, in fact, they said before the time they were just going to go and do what they usually do,—so the Crusaders took a look at what they “usually” do and stopped them from doing it. Even an average IQ guy should have realized after 20 minutes that the way the Crusaders were defending the maul they needed to change. So for me this has not only proved EJ is not Bok material it’s also shown up Whitely as a not very clever captain. The Crusaders basically did exactly what they have been doing the whole year and got away with it. If you look at Superugby stats you will see they are one of the MOST penalized teams in the competition and are FIRST with 10 yellow cards conceded. Its not rocket science, when you KNOW a team gives away many penalties you should punish them for it,—its points for you and it disrupts their whole gameplan.

        • Dean

          Elton is a good Super Rugby player but that’s where it ends. He will never be successful at international level. He doesn’t have the temperament to succeed under pressure. I don’t care what anybody says, Damian Willemse is our next flyhalf. He’s got as much talent, if not more, than any of the current flyhalves we have. He has 2 Super Rugby seasons and a Junior World Cup under his belt and he is only 20 years old. Compare that to Elton, measure his performances in finals rugby and at international level over the past 8 years. Has he improved?

  • Herman Schroder?

    So the Jantjies knockers come out of the woodwork because the Lions didn’t win the game. Jantjies played every second of 19 games in SR this year and he got his team to ANOTHER SR Final. Gee where were the other flyhalves this year ? He plays so much rugby he’s bound to make a few mistakes, The other guys are either playing safety first rubbish or are injured. Teflon Jantjies just picks himself up, dusts himself off and just carries on playing his best for his team. I salute you sir.

    He was criticized by the commentator because he kicked a high ball which was gathered by Moanga and he then broke through five tackles and gained lot’s of ground. The question is why did the tacklers not close him down ? Instead Jantjies is blamed for putting the ball up. If they had closed him down and the Lions turned the ball over and even scored would it still have been a poor kick ? So many wise guys after the event.

    As for Jantjies’s ‘non try’ should they not have at least have looked at that from another angle or zoomed in on the ball ?? For me he initially touched the line ( even the commentator hesitated ) and when he removed his hand it moved back a bit. No doubt if that was a Crusaders effort it would have been 5 minutes of scrutiny. On such small margins does success or failure revolve.

    I’ve always rated Combrink but in this one he did more bad than good regrettably. His costly missed tackle for the Crusaders first try and then not offloading to Brink 10 metres from the line after a great break was also below par for him. In fact the Lions seemed to lose their pacey offloading game this year as well as the switch move, angled running etc. Backline too static most of the time. Still they scored 90 tries, go figure.

    But at the end of the day they remain the only real shining light in an otherwise dreary landscape that is SR and SA rugby. Thanks for the memories Lions you are still simply the best ( in SA anyway, lol ). Now it’s onto the RC where Rassie’s 6 moments of truth will follow in quick succession. I await his RC squad announcement on Monday with a certain measure of hope and a good measure of trepidation. The game plan will influence his selections no doubt so all will soon be revealed. I wonder what his ‘pass’ mark will be by the time the dust settles, his current 50% win rate is not acceptable is it ? Cheers.

    • John Comyn

      I thought Janjties was okay. He certainly can’t shoulder the blame for the loss. Allround I thought the Lions did well given the travel factor and the quality of the opposition. Don’t get me wrong he is not good enough to be a Bok flyhalf but nor is Willemse at this stage of his career. I was not aware that if the ball lands in goal and back out you can’t dot it down. I’m not sure to many others know this. Sure he kicked away possession aimlessly (his game management has always been poor) but there were 3 or 4 missed tackles that can also be blamed for the try. On the positive side he almost scored a good try and I don’t think he missed a kick at goal.

    • Chris Mouton

      Herman, that kick from him was completely aimless and carrying the ball over his own line was just stupid. But okay, I’m not going to knock him in order to satisfy you. Just look at the following scenario. Both Jantjies and Mo’unga had a lot to play for in terms of national interests. Mo’unga used his opportunities and had an extremely strong game. He just took control.

      Speaking of safety first, what the hell was going through the Lions heads this game? They didn’t play Lions rugby! For the 1st 12 min they had the Saders on the ropes and gave me hope…and then they started kicking the ball away a la domkrag. It didn’t work. Everyone knew that the rolling maul was one of their biggest weapons and the Saders completely nullified it. There was no plan B. Their scrums had no effect and their lineouts were shakey. Suddenly the Lions looked like one-trick ponies, which is a damn shame. We all know that they can play better!

      Combrinck had a shocker. Jantjies gave Vorster hospital passes the entire game. Kwagga was missing tackles like crazy. Marx was nullified. The only two players that really stood out was Mostert and Dyantyi. They looked as if they wanted to play at least!

      That almost-try from Jantjies was not a try. I really wanted it to be, but it just wasn’t. I’m disappointed with the Lions in this game in general. I really wanted the Lions to win. To go against the odds. For some reason they were just too predictable. Nobody stood up and took control of the game. There was no creativity. In the end a classy outfit like the Saders could read them like a book and then just take control. The missed tackles didn’t help.

      As for the Rugby Championship, I sincerely hope that the Springboks can improve on their promising performances so far. I sincerely hope that Rassie can turn around our fortunes. If he can’t, ask yourself, who else is there? Please don’t say Jake White. He has no idea how to coach modern rugby. But seriously, who else is there? Whether Rassie is the answer or not, I’ll support him all the way until it’s clear that he’s not the way forward. Something tells me that this RC will not be so easy. The Aussies are improving and the Pumas has the Jaguares coach now, who had some moderate success. I’d be quite happy if we can finish 2nd in the competition. That’ll show me real progress. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Chris you are entitled to have your opinion about the Lions and yes I agree there were some things they could have done much better but the final outcome does revolve around small moments and the Lions never took theirs at times. I have been criticizing the Lions for ditching their offload game which when they had so much front foot ball, possession and territory they relied too heavily on the pick and go’s which the Crusaders defended well. Whether it was legal at times as was their rush defence remains a contentious point but when the officials were all true blue was never going to be strictly policed.

        Jantjies does remain an enigma but I still believe that if we are going to play expansive rugby at test level he is still the man. The others hardly play any rugby so who is more ready and battle hardened than he is anyway. If Rassie is going the ‘dinosaur’ route, which I suspect, then by all means pick the domkraggers and take the consequences.

        You assume his non try was a correct decision without saying why. I’ll say it again, why was a crucial moment in the game not scrutinized further because it was obviously not clear whether the ball had touched the line or not ? Another angle and a zoom in and 7 points at that crucial stage of the game was worth gold. Small moments my man, small moments.

        As for Rassie going forward for me it’s very simple. If he is going to follow in the footsteps of Heyneke Meyer and Toetie with their respective dom krag templates then he will find me a harsh critic as did the other two. The Lions could not beat the Crusaders despite their forward dominance and ditched their most potent weapon these past three years, skillful all out attack. Is that going to be Rassies game plan as well ?

        The AB’s cannot be beaten by just holding or even beating them upfront you must be creative and for that you need creative players like Jantjies. The squad to be announced today will go a long way to indicating his game plan and obviously he must be given the benefit of the doubt at this stage. But if the England series was anything to go by he will have to come up with something much more than the Bok display in the third England test if the graph is to start moving upwards. .

        As for who better than him as coach, well the jury will be out on that for a good while because apparently he can stuff up completely and still be comfortably ensconced in his ‘wing back’ chair back at Head Quarters for the next few years. No forwarding planning or vision by SARU over the past decade has produced this ridiculous situation where we do not have a crop of coaches in this country with suitable rugby nous to fill the posts. Those like Ackerman, who should never have been lost when Toetie got the job in 2016, a case in point.

        A target for Rassie should be a 80% win ratio and 3rd on the World rankings by the end of the year ie after the next ten tests. Then maybe we can look forward to a reasonable challenge at next years World Cup. Over to you Rassie. Cheers.

        • Daniel ONeill

          yes sure if missing tackeles , the iability to kick futher than 25 metres for touch, the inability to ply on his backfoot, his total lack of tactical play under the smallest of pressure… o and add lack of rugby rules makes him your man then whoo bllody whoo.. it simply makes him mediocre to nothing to me.

      • SweetAz

        Yeah, –the modern Lions supporters are becoming a bit like the old Bulls supporters. You just can’t criticize anything about them without someone like Hermie going off on a rant. You are totally right, there were 2 flyhalves on the field, one stood up and the other didn’t, the one that didn’t stand up is every Lions supporters first choice for the Boks,—–the one that DID stand up is 3RD choice for the AB’s. Says it all really.

        • John Comyn

          “becoming” ! Herman’s adolescent behaviour is legendry.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Not so SweetAz, It’s rather amazing really, I have a team worthy of supporting while the rest have nothing but disappointment to wallow in. Criticism of a team that has been as consistent as the Lions these past three to four years is only caused by envy as well as frustration in someones own team’s efforts.

          Sure they make mistakes and cock up from time to time but that is part and parcel of any teams journey to the top but when one player is singled out for particularly harsh criticism and placed under undue pressure like Jantjies has been then I will go in to bat for him. Any of these other flyhalves in the running ( when they play ) would probably have crumbled by now if subjected to the same relentless attacks. Mallett has stated he must be in the Bok mix and that’s good enough for me. Cheers.

          That I even have to defend the Lions is ludicrous in the context of the abysmal state of SA rugby but it is a job I really enjoy. Note the ‘enjoy’ part.

          See my epistle to Chris Mouton in this thread for further ‘pearls of wisdom’, lol. Cheers.

  • Rant

    That is a good team. I would not mind that group turning out against Argentina and think they could dominate. And a bench of Akker/Mbonambi, Kitshoff, Thomas Du Toit, Pieter Steph Du Toit, Pollard, Esterhuizen, Willie Le Roux. Start Faf De Klerk instead of Wright. That’s a solid Bok team. We have so much talent available we just need some good franchise coaches and to get some of our best rugby minds back. Once we have our structures sorted we could be the best team in the world. Look at Ireland and Wales, they have far fewer players than SA but manage to beat us consistently of late. Sort it out SARU.

    As far as the SR final went, Crusaders just awesome. Sure they lived off Lion’s mistakes, but their defense was just awe inspiring. And their counter-attack was superb. They did the basics to world-class level and the Lions just couldn’t live with it. I won’t go into any sort of rant about certain individual players. I am sure there are some massively dented egos in the Lions squad today. Though give Mostert a Bells, that guy is the energizer bunny on steroids, he doesn’t stop and needs to be in the Bok fold.

    Well done to the Lions for a third successive final. Hope they can learn the lessons and get the trophy next year. I just think they need to stick to their expansive game plan and not play so much in the forwards or rely so heavily on the forward dominance or kicking. I thought they had gone past that old-fashioned approach?

  • Maxwell

    Brink is new kid on the block. Get him in there. He is a specailist in his position. Du Toit can move back to his specialist position. We need specialists in their positions. It will eliminate second thougth in attack and defense. The execution of the gameplan will run smoother which help in gaining momentum in attack and defense. Coaches and players need to learn more about rugby science than nutrient science. That was the difference in SRF.

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