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 Kurtley Beale (Waratahs)
Good timing for Beale to put his hand up at fullback. He made a difference for the Waratahs as he read the game so well, put in some clever kicks, timed his runs into the line and was a rock at the back. Doesn’t have the height a lot of the other Wallaby options have but he is brave and skillful under the high ball.
14 Matt Faddes (Highlanders)
The old dog is surviving on his instincts at the moment. The knee is taped up like an Egyptian mummy. Last outing v Crusaders he scooped up one his trademark intercepts and was chased down and obviously stinging from a fortnight’s worth of ribbing from his team mates he made no mistake this week as the Blues gave away their second intercept try in two weeks.
13 Adam Ashley Cooper (Waratahs)
Seems to love the Sydney Cricket Ground as he last raised his head above the parapet when the Tahs surprised the Crusaders last month. Was a good foil to the power of Karmichael Hunt and a good old head to have around as his team fought back from a big halftime deficit.
12 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco (Sunwolves)
Had the potential to be the worst selection blunder since Mauro Bergamasco was selected at halfback for Italy.
But ‘maybe blunder’ turned into ‘certain blinder’ as the big loosie looked incredibly at home with some canny running lines and good distribution skills. The biggest factor was we didn’t hear a peep of Ngani Laumape with the ball in hand, he resorted to trying to show the selectors he has a kicking game like Nonu.
11 Semisi Masirewa (Sunwolves)
Both Ben Lam and Masirewa had good games in Tokyo but Masirewa has joined the cream of the left wing crop; those finishers like Rieko Ioane and Makazole Mapimpi who get the crowd on their feet whenever they get some ball in space. I am wondering if Fiji will come calling with this form? Would be great to see him at the Rugby World Cup.
10 Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies)
A lot of first fives were influential this week. Josh Ioane, Hayden Parker and Bernard Foley were all very good. I thought the Brumbies captain stood out because of his all-round game but also his handling of referee Nic Briant. The Brumbies got away with a lot at ruck time and should have had at least one more yellow card for their slowing down at the breakdown. How Rory Arnold escaped a penalty or yellow card in the 73rd minute where he cleverly impeded the Stormers from cleaning out which led to a relieving penalty for his own team heaven only knows. But where inexperienced captain Steven Kitshoff was consistently needling Briant, Lealiifano stayed very calm and it was almost like the ref took the Stormers claims for infringements with a pinch of salt.
9 TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
Close choice from Tate McDermott (Reds) who must claim some credit for driving his unsung forwards around in their win versus the Sharks. TJ took a deep breath and masterfully got the Canes back into the game with a try when they were ten points down and made the correct decisions on attack to get his team over the line.
8 Elliot Dixon (Highlanders)
Almost the forgotten man of NZ rugby. He has been doing some reminding in the last two rounds. Lock Joe Wheeler alluded to his influence in a mid-week tv show; when Elliot steps up and shows his 2015 ‘angry hill-billy’ form the team are ready to follow.
7 Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
Got a victory in his 100th Waratahs match. The Tahs managed to defuse Will Genia and Quade Cooper’s influence in the second half, and Hooper was in most rucks trying to slow that quick ball down that the Rebels need to operate flat. Liam Wright is having an impressive campaign. His fitness in the last 10 minutes allowed him to defuse a couple of Sharks chances and get the Reds home.
6 Cyle Brink (Lions)
Brink made it look easy as he bossed the Chiefs in the collision zone and teamed up well with Kwagga Smith and Warren Whitely to add some real zing for the Lions. Tom Robinson (Blues) continues his eye-catching form.
5 Izaac Rodda (Reds)
The commentators barely called his name all night as he was like some coal miner hidden in the deepest recesses looking for rich veins of possession. Reds coach Brad Thorn would be very proud of him.
4 Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
As a foil to Rodda, Arnold delighted in having a hard-working loose trio and his partner Sam Carter doing all the donkey work in the Brumbies win over the Stormers. He showed his skill in first ten minutes with a lovely offload and an awesome charge down try to get his team 12 points up. Then some great action swimming through mauls and making himself a Retallick-like nuisance to see the Aussies home.
3 Carlu Sadie (Lions)
If it’s one position South Africa doesn’t struggle with it’s tighthead prop. Sadie, like Wilco Louw (Stormers) is as strong as an ox but belies his girth with some of the prettiest footwork and passing that would make a twinkle toed number 10 proud.
2 Malcolm Marx (Lions)
A nightmare week for the Lions as their coaching team disintegrated but Marx seemed to relish having senior players like Whitely and Kwagga return as he focused a lot better on his core game this week. Liam Coltman was destructive for the Highlanders and Asafo Aumua (Hurricanes) looked up for it off the bench this week.
1 Harry Hoopert (Reds)
First start of the season for the 20-year-old and he didn’t disappoint. Has shown some elusive running skills coming off the bench this season and he knuckled down at Kings Park and showed some real strength. He is listed at 111 kgs but there’s not much fat on this prime beef.
Watch the Heineken Champions Cup Final live on RugbyPass throughout Asia and Australia.