Siya Kolisi’s 60 minutes for the Sharks against the Stormers was the best South African rugby story of Saturday.
Whoever wins the Rainbow Cup SA is secondary to how the best Springboks are shaping in the tournament. This weekend Springboks captain Kolisi served notice of the player who inspired a nation at the 2019 World Cup. Stormers flank Pieter-Steph du Toit was freakish in his 80 minute effort and Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen was the only stand out for the Bulls in a shock defeat to the Lions.
For the record, the Stormers won by three points in Durban against the Sharks (25-22) and the Lions edged the Bulls 34-33 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The results meant the Bulls, with three wins from four, still top the table.
But more importantly, Kolisi got through 60 minutes of competitive rugby and had some big moments, especially when he ran over Stormers centre Ruhan Nel to set up a try for the Sharks.
Kolisi was more involved than he has been for the past fortnight. He played as one with improved match fitness and his confidence on the ball was encouraging. His graph is heading in the right direction. He will be ready for the challenge of the British & Irish Lions in two months time.
Du Toit is a giant among giants. He emptied the tank for another 80 minute effort and it seems unreal that only a month ago, he hadn’t played for more than six months.
Vermeulen also enjoyed those moments against the Lions when he towered above everyone else.
His individual impact wasn’t matched by his team, as the Bulls crumbled in the final quarter, despite leading 33-20.
Nationally, my eyes were on those players who have to be at their best if the Springboks are to beat the British & Irish Lions in a three-Test series, which starts with the first Test in Cape Town on 24th July.
Kolisi was my good news story. Du Toit was my comfort and Vermeulen continues to defy father time and deliver.
The scrum battle in Durban was a highlight. I know Tank Lanning would have loved that opening quarter. The Springbok props in Durban ticked the boxes. That is good news for the Lions series.
In Johannesburg, the Bulls pack looked like imposters when compared to the performance against the Sharks a week ago. A week is a long or very short time in sport, depending on the outcome a week later. For the Bulls, this next week will feel very long.
The national coach Jacques Nienaber and National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus wouldn’t have learned anything they didn’t know from the matches in Durban and Johannesburg.
They would have been pleased at how little there was in both matches and mostly they would have beamed at the sight of Kolisi dropping his shoulder, tensing his hips and steamrolling Nel.
They would also have been relieved that this was another Springboks Saturday experienced with no injury concerns.
Couple what they saw at Twickenham in Europe’s two club finals on Friday and Saturday night and in Durban and Johannesburg and they will tell you it’s been a good weekend in the context of the Springboks.
Also on www.keo.co.za