This one is easy – give them all 10/10!
Ok, no – let’s be a little more measured about this. The Sharks, as we all know, put in one of those ultra-special team performances to beat the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, only the second time a South African side has ever won a Super Rugby play-off game away from home. While it almost seems unfair to rate the players as individuals, let’s give it a go anyway. Bear in mind that all of these are in the context of a team performance that was worth at least a 9…
1. Beast Mtawarira – Sublime. Applied huge pressure at scrum time and was busy and effective elsewhere, with some great defence too. 8/10
2. Bismarck du Plessis – that pass that sent JP in for his try was worth a rating of 8 all on its own, but Bissie’s all-round work at the set piece, on the drive, on defence and particularly as a leader in the pack earns him one more than that. 9/10
3. Jannie du Plessis – Strong as the rock of ages in a dominant scrum that laid the platform for victory. No slouch on defence either and also made a few good carries. 8/10
4. Willem Alberts. Adapted to the unfamiliar role of lock very well and played a huge innings. Ever present as a ball carrying option and used his strength and bulk to good effect. 8/10
5. Anton Bresler. The stand-out tight forward, to my mind. Made a massive number of tackles, as usual and dominated the middle of the lineout for the Sharks. A man who is raising his game week by week in a pack where he is the only uncapped player at international level. 9/10
6. Keegan Daniel. The captain was my man of the match and quite simply could not have played better. 10/10
7. Marcell Coetzee. The young man tackled his heart out and never stood back an inch all game. What a player! 8/10
8. Ryan Kankowski. The Hoff’s great form continues and he was once again a real stand out in all that he did. 9/10
9. Charl McLeod. A bit of a mixed bag from Charl, with one or two passes not quite finding their target. That amazing intercept try more than made up for it, though and his option-taking throughout the match was sublime. 8/10
10. Fred Michalak. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen “bad Fred”, with the mercurial Frenchman providing yet another sublime performance. Always in control, always thinking and how good was that drop goal? 9/10
11. Lwazi Mvovo. Few opportunities with ball in hand, but always looked to make things happen and was great in support and on defence. 8/10
12. Tim Whitehead. Played a vital role in both first-half tries with the neatest of touches. Defended well and played his part in a great team performance. 8/10
13. Paul Jordaan. The pace, vision and skill of this man belie his youth. What a prospect! What a performance! Hope his hammy isn’t too serious. 8/10
14. JP Pietersen. The form back line player in the whole country, bar none. JP simply can’t put a foot wrong at the moment. 10/10
15. Louis Ludik. Proved again that he’s the Sharks’ best bet at fullback; his positioning and technique on defence are outstanding and he’s never afraid to join the line with heart either. 9/10.
16. Craig Burden. I saw him working furiously on defence at the end there, but he wasn’t on quite long enough to get a rating.
17. Wiehahn Herbst. The biggest compliment I can pay is to say that I didn’t notice when Jannie went off. Wors anchored the scrum admirably with the Reds putting on huge pressure 5m out, for most of the second half. Also got through his customary work on defence. Great to see. 8/10
18. Steven Sykes. The yellow card was silly, but he threw his body around hugely in the 10 minutes he spent on the field. 7/10
19. Jacques Botes. Not on for long enough to rate.
20. Cobus Reinach. Unused.
21. Meyer Bosman. Huge on defence and did some crucial work with the ball too. Had he not “tripped over his feet” with the tryline a-begging, he’d have got more. 8/10
22. Odwa Ndungane. Unused.