As Eric Rush once said, “this is just one man’s opinion”. Please add your picks and your favourites in the feedback box below.
15 – David Havili (Crusaders)
Strong performance from David Havili as the Crusaders had to work hard to eventually get a victory over their southern neighbours. The fullback worked well in the backfield and of course ran a great line to prosper with a try off an exceptional Richie Mo’unga ball. During the game, he became the third player to crack 1000 metres for the season behind Melani Nanai and Semisi Masirewa. Interesting race for an All Black outside back position and the longer you are in the Super rugby race the more chances you have to show your wares.
14 – Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)
What an interesting study in physiology this athlete is. Looks a little top heavy and hulking, but deceives a lot of defenders with his pace off the mark and deft footwork. He has shown in the last few weeks that if you show him the sideline he’ll take you in a way that is rare at top level. A very heart-warming story on how he has fought back from a heart complaint, one of the best for a brave Bulls outfit who never stopped trying.
13 – Matias Orlando (Jaguares)
A key to the Jaguares victories over the Chiefs was that they were able to shut down two key ball runners in Anton Lienert-Brown and Brodie Retallick and the two Jaguares centres (Jeronimo del la Fuente as well) were giants in defence. Also he played a big part in marshalling the defensive kick chase not allowing the super-dangerous Chiefs to counter attack often.
12 – Teihorangi Walden (Highlanders)
Since Tei Walden made it back from injury a couple of weeks ago his partnership with Rob Thompson has been a feature of the Highlanders success and they gave nothing away to the vaunted pair of Crotty and Goodhue, perhaps even getting the better of them over the 80 minutes. Walden has an immense work rate and a telepathic understanding with Aaron Smith with passes on attack close to the line.
11 – Matias Moroni (Jaguares)
In the absence of the fabulous Ramiro Moyano, the Jaguares went for the workman-like Matias Moroni on the wing for the knockout stage and he didn’t let them down. Leading up to the quarterfinal, only the lock Guido Petti had played more minutes than him in the squad. Strong and solid rather than spectacular, having experience out on the park paid off as the Jaguares had to stay patient and focussed against the spirited Chiefs. Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes) continues his emergence as a gifted, pacy talent.
10 – Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)
The only way a team will wrest the Super Rugby trophy off the Crusaders is to foil this magician. He seems to have all the skills; kicking, marshalling, running, defending and no one has been able to pressure him so far. There has seemed to have been a presumption that you may be able to bully him but he is so tough and cool headed as well as supremely skilled. No one has knocked him off his game yet and it’s difficult to see it happening. Wonderful replay on TV of him chiselling through two big Highlanders defenders at top speed; that said it all. 23 points, two tries and rhythmical from the kicking tee.
9 – TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
TJ Perenara is on the top of his game and is a very interesting type of halfback, one who is more reminiscent of a South African like a Joost van der Westhuizen or Fourie du Preez than a typical Kiwi nine. He is tall and deceptively strong. In his 100th Super game in partnership with Beauden Barrett, Perenara stepped up and took a lot on his shoulders. Now has 53 tries in Super rugby, well within sight of Israel Folau’s record of 60.
8 – Pete Samu (Brumbies)
Staggering first half performance from Samu, 75 metres running, five tackle busts, three line breaks and two tries before halftime, then a lie down with a hammy twinge. He has been ruled out to travel to Argentina and that’s a big blow for the Aussies.
7 – Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
His most influential work was at the back of a scrum that was having difficulty, Savea managed to salvage ball that under most circumstances would have been tough to work with. Would an 8 Savea, 7 Cane and 6 Read trio work for a Rugby World Cup defence? Will Hansen give it a go? He really loves a big imposing six but it is a way you could get the mixture of form players and leadership in to your loose forward combo.
6 – Pablo Matera (Jaguares)
This is one star where you can see the fire snorting out of his nostrils, BUT, over the last few seasons, he has a) learnt to channel it without infringing too much, and b) added some very refined parts to his play. With every hard loose forward, you’d be counting your blessings that he is on your team every time you see him go into contact. Whetu Douglas (Crusaders) had a very good game with a try from a line lout maul and some lovely slick hands on a transfer to Mo’unga for his first try.
5 – Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
There seems to be a rash of rangy locks with brilliant ball skills now, think of RG Snyman, Brodie Retallick and this guy especially. Wonderful offload for Samu’s first try and has a great ability to freestyle through mauls to disrupt ball. Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders) led his team’s bruising defence and ball running and will be missed by the franchise a great deal.
4 – Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
When you look at the Crusader’s performance, Mo’unga was the standout and the other Crusaders played very supporting roles. For all the magic to happen though you need someone in the basement keeping the furnace white hot and Whitelock is the perfect leader to follow.
3 – Alan Alaalatoa (Brumbies)
Second week in a row, just pipping his brother Michael. At a mid-stage of the second half it was recognised that Alaalatoa led the tackle count with 20. Like Whitelock, he is a workaholic, and with his major competition for the Wallaby 3 jersey being Sekope Kepu and Taniela Tupou, the two most penalised players in the competition, Michael Cheika will be hoping the Brumby stays energetic and injury free in the last stanza of Super rugby.
2 – Dane Coles (Hurricanes)
In an interview this week, Dane Coles acknowledged that some non-Hurricane players had mentioned “hey you’re not a bad guy at all” once they’d got to know him off the field. On the field he is just your worst, poltergeist-type nightmare in a way that Sean Fitzpatrick used to show us; niggly, physical and just a little mouthy. His clash with Codie Taylor will be a fantastic matchup in the semifinal. The All Black hooker spots will be interesting as Liam Coltman is laying down a challenge to Nathan Harris as well, with the Chief conceding at least three penalties in Buenos Aires and not in great control.
1 – Joe Moody (Crusaders)
I have a theory that Joe Moody got away with some interesting scrummaging but hey, he got away with it for the whole game without being penalised so well done to him and the reputation of the Crusaders front row. First scrum, both packs square and Tyrel Lomax got slightly the better of Moody. From scrum two, Moody starting angling in on Lomax and rather than the scrum superiority that was talked about I saw the scrums shear away on the loose head side while Lomax remained perfectly square to the tryline. That will be one more challenge for the Hurricanes pack, sometimes you are up against players as well as their status.
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