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 Solomon Alaimalo (Chiefs)
After seeing Alaimalo and Shaun Stevenson’s pacy performances on the rock hard Suva pitch as the Chiefs downed the Crusaders, the franchise must be thinking of ways they can harden up their soft Hamilton track. Alaimalo gave us a glimpse of the form he was in two years ago, he was irrepressible as he ran rings round the much-vaunted Crusader outsides. Tom Banks (Brumbies) and Semisi Masirewa (Sunwolves) were great value from the back as well.
14 Cornal Hendricks (Bulls)
Up against Rieko Ioane, Hendricks delivered a strong performance in wet, miserable conditions. Classic wing’s try down the flank.
13 Lionel Mapoe (Lions)
When Mapoe goes for a gap, he gives it full commitment and more often than not gets the break. The Lions held a narrow lead over the Stormers after halftime but lively Lionel was instrumental in setting up a barrage of tries that set them free. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs) was back to his canny best.
12 Irae Simone (Brumbies)
At 193cm and 105kg you could expect Simone to be similar to the muscular style of Tevita Kuidrani outside him but this guy has some soft and silky skills. Made some very strong decisions when the Brumbies ventured wide, although they eventually put the Sunwolves away with their maul tries. Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) had his best game in a while doing what he should do more of; running hard and straight.
11 Curtis Rona (Waratahs)
A slightly dodgy try-saving tackle aside, Rona has put in some very powerful shifts in the last couple of weeks. He has explosive power and surprises some defenders with his speed.
10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
The conductor had the Hurricanes orchestra in full song in Durban. Didn’t overplay his hand, shovelling it on to power runners Laumape and brother Jordie, and then when he decided to make a break he had less defenders concentrating on him. Place-kicking is looking smooth and even though we think of Barrett as a running 10, he is number 3 for kicks in play for the tournament; he usually gets the best of any aerial ping-pong battles.
9 Felipe Ezcurra (Jagaures)
Got his second start for the season and looked very collected under pressure and scored a good halfback’s try. With the recent whining from some Aussie pundits about the Jaguares being an Argentine national team, the real positive in being involved in Super rugby has been to blood players like Ezcurra, who may be ranked 4th nationally behind Cubelli, Bertranou and Landajo but is on his way up.
8 Kwagga Smith (Lions)
This guy knows his way to the try-line, that’s for sure. Hat-trick heaven. Had a great battle with Jaco Coetzee and even though the Stormer had some great runs in the standard number fashion, Smith adds so much to his team by taking strong options at the right time, be it turnovers, linking or tries. Dan de Preez (Sharks) was strong again and Pita Gus Sowakula (Chiefs) threw his body around and out-played the All Blacks captain who was coming back from a two week rest.
7 Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
Ardie and Kwagga might have been chiselled from the same rock. Some might question the legality of Savea’s turnover technique, the way he dives into the grounded ball carrier in the initial movement but he can certainly stay on his feet once he suctions himself over the ball. Referee Nic Berry didn’t have any qualms and that’s the main thing!
6 Sam Cane (Chiefs)
The race for the All Blacks 7 position is a frenzied one at the moment with both Savea and Cane out-doing the other on a weekly basis. With the question mark over a blindside to step up could we see Hansen experiment with these two? It would leave the AB line out seriously short of height that’s for sure. The great difference Cane has made beyond his skill and strength is the natural leadership he brings. Down 20 points to the Crusaders after as many minutes? Kudos to players like Cane, Weber and Lienert-Brown for dragging their team back. Hanro Liebenberg (Bulls) was energetic.
5 Rob Simmons (Waratahs)
I used to see Simmons as a very one-dimensional player but in the last month or two you can see that he has worked on the way he can use his assets in the open-field. Some very good running angles and defensive play on top of the solid set piece work.
4 Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
Great timing to make a statement after Steve Hansen suggested Barrett could be the fix at six for the ABs. 11th minute, got the ball 50m out in traffic, thrust aside Alex Nankivell and outsprinted any cover for a fantastic touchdown. Critics who reckoned Barrett doesn’t have the mobility to be a test flanker were shut down in their tracks from that moment. In the tournament top 25 for tackles and line out steals; good signs for a potential blindside flanker.
3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Blues)
Big Ofa was at his forceful best against the Bulls, being very influential on the gainline. The Blues have the most successful scrum in the comp on their ball with much credit going to the tighthead prop. He got himself his third try of the tournament as well.
2 Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs)
Second start of the season and just what the Chiefs needed in terms of a meat missile who got over the advantage line. Set piece was good too considering he was throwing to jumpers who were sometimes giving away 10cm to their opposites; accuracy was extremely important. Malcolm Marx (Lions) was monstrous as well and good stuff for Connal McInerney (Brumbies) with his hat trick; all three from line out mauls. Exciting in Canberra!
1 Dylan Smith (Lions)
The Northern Hemisphere has Kyle Sinkler and down south we have Dylan Smith; the centers in prop’s bodies. Smith doesn’t do the diva stuff like Sinkler thank goodness and his pod work in phase play is very classy. Solid enough scrummager for Super Rugby. Talking about props with skills, Atu Moli’s (Chiefs) looping 20m pass off his left hand in the lead up to Jesse Parete’s try was sublime!
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