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 – Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes)
Strong performance at the back in the first half then down the right flank after half time in tandem with Dane Coles. The effortless run that led to the Canes first try kept them in the game. The fact that Jordie can blast place kicks from 50 metres plus is always worth thinking about in the run for the starting right wing position for World Cup knockout games.
14 – Sevu Reece (Crusaders)
Reece is a super skilful player and doesn’t need second invitation to score tries. Wonderful scoop up on the run to score the first one and the second was pace to skin Beauden Barrett. Has 15 tries in 13 matches this season and needs one to tie Ben Lam’s Super rugby record, set last year.
13 – Matias Orlando (Jaguares)
Second week in a row, leading a fine defensive display that perplexed the Brumbies and led to desperate actions that the South Americans capitalised on in a calculated manner. The 11, 12 and 13 chain of Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente and Matias Orlando form a great blanket that has smothered great counter attackers Solomon Alaimano and Tom Banks in the last fortnight, and his second try was pure determination that showed some tackle-busting power. One of the disappointments for me has been Jack Goodhue’s defence in the two matches; he’s been missing vital tackles and been caught out of position a few times. He needs a big final as we know there’s a logjam for midfield roles and it may come down to a call between him and Ryan Crotty for further honours.
12 – Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
Ngani Laumape was good, especially in the second half as he got his go-forward legs working. Even though Ryan Crotty was only on for 45 minutes he was influential with his decision making, the brightest one the wipers kick that Sevu Reece chased and prospered on. No surprise that once Crotty went off the Hurricanes had much more success on attack.
11 – Matias Moroni (Jaguares)
Also second week in a row, the pass he picked out Orlando with after a 60 metre run was a peach and that sums up the accuracy and precision Matias Moroni brings to the Jaguares. With Ramiro Moyano coming off the bench and looking fit, the selectors have some big calls to make. The contribution of George Bridge (Crusaders) can’t be underestimated either, he was supreme in the air off Bryn Hall’s box kicks.
10 – Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)
What a battle between Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga! As we mentioned last week Coles decided to test the theory of whether Mo’unga could be intimidated with a late charge into the back of the Crusaders 10 early on. He picked himself up and just kept on going. Surely the All Black selectors have to try the Mo’unga/Barrett starting double playmaker role at some stage before the World Cup? Joaquin Diaz Bonilla (Jaguares) had the ball on a piece of string as well. Against both the Chiefs and Brumbies he has found grass with his kicking from hand and with a good kick chase that has been their trump card.
9 – TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
TJ Perenara became the most capped Hurricane and he has also joined the pantheon of Hurricane’s influential legends like Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu, Tana Umaga and Jerry Collins. Has never been a wallflower but this season he has really impressed with his physicality. Showed his maturity at the last minute when he was ruled to have knocked on, replays showed that Sam Whitelock’s hand was in the play but there were no histrionics from Perenara at the time.
8 – Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Kieran Read is getting into his work nicely and ran strongly with determination. Was a good head to have around in the second half as the Hurricanes kept coming back at the champions.
7 – Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
It’s been a big season for Ardie Savea and at the end of the last few games he has looked spent. The match up between Savea and Matt Todd didn’t disappoint, and outlined Savea’s dynamic work with ball in hand. If he can keep his form up, will the All Blacks give him an extended break in the next month? He will be an incredibly important cog in the All Black wheel this year.
6 – Pablo Matera (Jaguares)
Not only does Pablo Matera give you the raw-boned power we have seen some great running down the left flank this year and against the Brumbies he even put in some searching kicks off the left foot. Great competitor and he will be a key in the final; there’s no doubt he has the belief he can compete against the best and his actions will give some of his less certain team mates a real boost.
5 – Tomas Lavanini (Jaguares)
One can’t help be impressed by Tomas Lavanini’s maturity in the last season or two. Just google his name and you’ll see some old videos that show his antics that have led to more cards than a Rolodex. He’s only had one this season but he hasn’t lost any of his brutal physicality. Well deserved try driving low and hard.
4 – Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Second week in a row. Good test of Sam Whitelock’s captaincy and he stepped up well. Was lucky not be penalised in the last play of the game that could have given the Hurricanes a chance but managed to sneakingly stay anonymous; a pretty good effort for a six foot seven behemoth.
3 – Jeff Toomaga-Allan (Hurricanes)
The area where the Crusaders were going to be too strong for the Hurricanes was the tight forwards but no one told the Canes. The starting tight five was awesome and even though I haven’t found space for Blackwell and Walker-Leawere the whole front row gets my vote.
2 – Dane Coles (Hurricanes)
Second week in a row. He fully eclipsed Codie Taylor and led the resurgence after halftime with full commitment and skill. The tackle on Goodhue that led to Laumape’s second try was a wonderful piece of athleticism and determination and his dodgem car running style is great to watch.
1 – Toby Smith (Hurricanes)
Kept the Hurricanes scrum steady on their put-ins and a good game around the park. Dedicated himself to securing possession and featured in the Hurricanes first real line break. HIs season only really got started in round 13 and he has been at the forefront of the Cane’s improvements up front.
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