Christopher Reive runs through the winners and losers from the week in Super Rugby.
Forward of the week: Dylan Richardson (Sharks)
The Sharks’ game against the Reds was riddled with penalties and errors, meaning neither team could really assert any sort of dominance. However, whether it was on attack or defence, Richardson seemed to be in everything for the Sharks. Making more than 20 tackles, taking plenty of carries into heavy collisions, securing plenty of turnovers and scoring a try, Richardson was the hardest working man on the park.
Aso was the star of the show as the Hurricanes thrashed the Sunwolves in Napier. Getting the nod to start in the midfield, Aso was near unstoppable when he got the ball in his hands and did plenty of work to set up teammates. Aso finished the game with four try assists and one try of his own, running the ball for well over 100m.
Coach killer: Undercutting bomb defusers
It’s no secret there’s a focus on protecting players, so if you’re going to make contact with someone who is attempting to catch a bomb, chances are you’re going to be penalised. In their loss against the Rebels, two Highlanders wingers were sent to the sin bin for failing to get out of the way and taking the legs out from underneath an opponent in the air.
The Blues have a winning record through their first five games for the first time since 2011. That year, they finished fourth in the regular season and made it to the semifinals. Will they have the same success this year? It’s too soon to say, but their performance over the previously unbeaten Stormers was full of reasons to be excited about the season ahead.
The Sharks have played just one home game through the opening five rounds, and have been on the road since round one. They’ve since visited Dunedin, Wellington, Melbourne and Brisbane, and boast a 4-1 record. Their back line has been one of the most impressive in the competition, and their forwards are starting to follow suit. They’ll now have three straight games at home where they’ll look to further stake their claim to the top spot in the South African conference.
It’s safe to say the round one win over the Rebels was nothing more than a false promise. Since that point, the Sunwolves have looked like the easy beats of years past. That has been amplified over the last two weeks in which they’ve conceded a total of 20 tries and 166 points. The Hurricanes were able to have their way with the Sunwolves this week, and the visitors didn’t do much to try and stop them.
Starting the season with a 1-3 record is less than ideal, but for the Highlanders that record is accentuated by the fact they have lost both their matches at home and their sole win was a last ditch escape against the Brumbies. Life doesn’t get any easier in the next couple of weeks as they visit the Bulls and Jaguares, and it could very well be turning into a long season for the Southerners.