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 – Fletcher Smith (Hurricanes)
Was positive in general play as the Canes found a way back against the flailing and failing Blues, who still find it difficult to finish off games. His biggest influence was the two plays he made from Jackson Bachop-Garden’s deft chip kicks; he scored from the first and the next he laid off to the Walker Leawere Express; these two insightful acts got the momentum back and practically won the game for the Hurricanes. Bryce Hegarty (Reds) has coped well with going back to fullback for the latter part of the season.
14 – Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)
What a rich vein of form the velocious winger is in, with a hat-trick as the Chiefs smashed the Rebels and head to Buenos Aires for an unexpected quarterfinal. Very much a confidence player and after two scintillating performances, its oozing out of him. Some good performances in the 14 jersey this round, Lam, Naholo, Hendricks and Cancelliere all featured strongly.
13 – Peter Umaga Jensen (Hurricanes)
Only his second appearance of the season and showed his immense strength on attack and defence and got into the right place at the right time to pick up two tries. The Hurricanes will face the Bulls at home next week and with Matt Proctor’s injury Umaga-Jensen has put his hand up for selection. Lukanyo Am (Sharks) scored the winning try over the Stormers and played well, but it took 80 minutes for the Stormer’s wall to crack. Rob Thompson (Highlanders) had an awesome battle with Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs) and just shaded him.
12 – Anton Lienert Brown (Chiefs)
Week after week he is churning out quality, international performances. This week named the Chiefs Players’ Player of the Season, ALB is only 24 and is wise and rangatira-like (chiefly) beyond his years. One of his major challengers for a black jersey, Sonny Bill WIlliams (Blues) showed some nice touches on his return.
11 – Tevita Li (Highlanders)
Ironic that Li saved his best outing of the season for the chilly outdoor stadium of Invercargill after playing home games indoors all year. Constantly looked menacing on the left flank; he’ll need to bring all that form to a probable matchup with Sevu Reece in the quarterfinal. After being used as a mid-fielder most of the season the Brumbies’ Tom Wright showed what he could do on the flank; over 140m in running yards, a try and some lovely steps off the left foot.
10 – Handre Pollard (Bulls)
The Pretorians got a shock after 20 seconds as the Lions scored off the kick-off but then got into their work nicely. Pollard concentrated on distribution in the first half but then started running those dangerous diagonal runs off front foot ball in the second. One resulted in a try for him and then minutes later he popped the ball in the tackle to Manie Libbok for another. That put the Lions well out of contention for the knockout phase. The Bulls travel to Wellington and will look to have a tilt at the Canes up front. With Pollard calling the shots at 10 they are certainly in with a shout.
9 Brad Weber (Chiefs)
The Chiefs’ halfback had a ding dong game, out-played Will Genia and surely he must appear in the All Black squad for the test window? In terms of decision making and anticipation on the break he is one of the best, an apt third halfback in World Cup year.
8 – Lachlan McCaffrey (Brumbies)
His first start since round 9 and he looked voracious. Lachie the loosie is so niggly and annoying at the tackle and looks good with the ball in hand. The enticing match-up between Jaco Coetzee (Stormers) and Dan du Preez (Sharks) was a bit of a fizzer after Coetzee suffered a nasty knock early. Bravely/stubbornly came back but wasn’t his normal storming self.
7 – Tomas Lezana (Jaguares)
Lezana is an outstanding ball player and got the chance to show his wares against the Sunwolves who like to play fast and free. Got a try and his inter-linking between backs and forwards was a stand-out. Just pipped Sam Cane (Chiefs) who was ubiquitous alongside Lachlan Boshier. It was an embarrassing time for Jaco du Toit (Stormers) who obviously was chosen for Man of the Match at Newlands before the end of the match, although he was strong and is a good prospect.
6 – Marco van Staden (Bulls)
With his almost bow-legged stature he is built to fetch and with the Lions without Kwagga Smith and Manus Schoeman not on til late he feasted on loose ball. Also looked good in the open, running some important metres. Liam Squire (Highlanders) continued his path back although his 50 minutes was an illustration of where he is at; big rampaging runs, fierce hit, then cagily walking off looking a little uncomfortable after his over exuberance. Will need more than tape to hold him together until Yokohama.
5 – Guido Petti (Jaguares)
Oh what a difference depth and competition for places brings! With Marcos Kremer forming a good combo with Lavanini lately, Petti needed a big game to state his case and he was bruisingly effective. Some battering runs and contact work.
4 – Ruben van Heerden (Sharks)
In the absence of Ruan Botha, van Heerden continued his good form by being a big immovable plinth in midfield. He defended particularly well and his tackles were venomous. Kane Laupepe had a muscular match as well, interesting rumours that Scott Scrafton (Blues) is off to the Hurricanes next year, he was one of the better players in the first half for the
3 – Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders)
Lomax will be at the Hurricanes next year as well, and will be an important cog in the Hurricanes engine room. He looks a shoe-in for higher honours in the next RWC cycle as well.
2 – Julian Montoya (Jaguares)
The Jaguares seem to be sorting out some of the tight forward issues they had earlier in the year; the scrum is looking more settled and the rolling maul was purring. Montoya got himself a five-pointer just after half time and should have had another maul score moments later. Asafo Aumua (Hurricanes) did exactly what Dane Coles did the week before; came off the bench and made a vivid difference. He led the Canes in the tight exchanges and imposed himself on the fading Blues.
1 – James Slipper (Brumbies)
Scott Sio got the laurels in his 100th cap but Slipper continued the pain for the Reds as he played with controlled anger against his old franchise. The battle up front in the quarterfinal will be a boomer as the Sharks have a one-two punch at tighthead with Coenie Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit forming a fruitful job-sharing partnership too.
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