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 – Will Jordan (Crusaders)
The Crusaders used to be guilty of starting the season slowly but now there’s so much competition for places every week it’s a “prove yourself week” for anyone who gets selected. Jordan has shown he has converted the promise he has had in youth and provincial levels. A flowing Cullen-type runner in open play, and thanks to the sterling work done by his team, he has had plenty of chance to show his wares. Ups to Warwick Gelant (Bulls), who seems to have been around for yonks, but is still only 23. He has removed the mercurial, raw edge to his game and become a consistent, reliable custodian.
14 – Jack Maddocks (Rebels)
A bit like Will Jordan, the Rebel with a cause is so athletic and elusive. He is beginning to understand with Will Genia and Quade Cooper’s vision he will get a load of chances from skip passes, and was in great position to score his two tries against the Brumbies to continue the Rebels unbeaten run. Sevu Reece (Crusaders) was his energetic self in his first Super start for the defending champs.
13 – Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Second week in a row. If you get chance, take a look at some slo-mo footage of Goodhue’s footwork in contact. He is such a difficult person to contain, and is putting together an amazing showreel for his application for the starting All Blacks XV. Special mention of 2018 Boks under 20 star Wandisilie Simelane (Lions), who didn’t let an awful first pass in Super Rugby phase him. He is a play-maker and distributor extraordinaire. We’ll hear more about him as the season unfolds.
12 – Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)
Second week in a row. There are a few Super rugby players waking up in a sweat having nightmares about their tangles with Laumape. Not only did he score two tries, but kept at least two defenders busy all game which created space elsewhere. Still a debate on whether he has the finesse and consistency to unseat the raft of veterans for the All Black role in World Cup year, but brutally stating his case.
11 – Rieko Ioane (Blues)
There’s a joke going round that Rieko has been so quiet in the first three games they might count as his rest period for the national selectors, but he certainly came alive as a finisher against the Sunwolves. The four tries were all catch, pass and score, but that is certainly his core role smashed.
10 – Handre Pollard (Bulls)
Inspirational guidance and leadership from the Bulls fly-half. Apart from Jonny Sexton, it’s hard to believe there is a more pivotal player to the chances of seeded teams leading into the World Cup. His kicking has been awesome and the decision to take a dropped goal with the Sharks 13 points behind but pressing hard was just what you want from a general. Quade Cooper (Rebels) is putting in some consistent performances and his journey is shaping as a great redemptive tale.
9 – Will Genia (Rebels)
Second week in a row. It’s quite common to see big physical leaders lead from front at the coalface, but after 30 mins in Melbourne Genia had become incandescent with rage at his forwards. From that moment on he probed, scrapped and led the Rebels with go-forward and he turned the match around. Jamie Booth (Sunwolves) has a field day around the Blues fringes and looked to be enjoying himself big time.
8 – Akira Ioane (Blues)
Would still love to see Akira stationed as second to last receiver or right on the wing from time to time, but there’s no doubt he is a colossus in the collision. Whetukamokamo Douglas (Crusaders) literally bled for the Crusaders cause as well.
7 – David Pocock (Brumbies)
The wind really went out of the Brumbies sails when their best player was subbed mid-way through the 2nd half. Some awesome pilfering and solid play from the number 8 position at set piece. Interesting to see the changing face of South African loose forward trios during the tounament. This weekend, we saw two players with 7 on the backs who were not the archetypal 6 foot 5, 120 kilo angry Afrikaaner farmer-types. Tim Agaba (Bulls) and Vincent Tshituka (Lions) wore 7 jerseys with aplomb this weekend. The 20-year-old Tshituka is only 93 kilos, and with some strength and conditioning, will be a great long-term prospect.
6 – Ned Hanigan (Waratahs)
There has been a suspicion that the Waratah lacks some physicality for tight-loose play and that’s why they play Jed Holloway at lock as a compromise between line out height and some smash and bash. Both did their jobs against the Reds though with powerful displays. Hanigan threw himself into the contact area and helped give the Waratahs the edge in this clash. Jordan Taufua (Crusaders) is a tireless warrior.
5 – Hanro Liebenberg (Bulls)
As part of the changing face of South Africans 7s we talked about, Liebenberg, who has played most of his rugby at 8 or flank, was moved to lock and looked impressive in their victory over the Sharks.
4 – Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
If the Crusaders-Chiefs game was a trial, then Barrett got one over the surprisingly quiet Brodie Retallick. We may have to question whether Retallick is comfortable with captaincy duties as he has looked distracted this season as his team goes to 0-4. On the other hand, Barrett has been stand out player of the season. He does everything with urgency and energy and sorts stuff out.
3 – Carlu Sadie (Lions)
Admittedly, having Malcolm Marx beside you at scrum time must help, but Sadie led the Lions in flogging the machismo out of the Jaguares. Looks good with the ball as well for a 125kg behemoth. Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders) is shaping well for the All Blacks world without Owen Franks.
2 – Dane Coles (Hurricanes)
Second week in a row. I joked last week that Codie Taylor would be itching to get some minutes on the clock and that would have been exacerbated with Dane Coles performance on Friday. Coles revelled in the tight scrappy victory, and Taylor was explosive against a resigned Chiefs line-up. Malcolm Marx is ramping up his form, and I was impressed with the spark of Gaspar Baldunciel (Jaguares). The 22-year-old came off the bench and got the tired Jagaures pack firing with some enthusiasm.
1 – Dylan Smith (Lions)
After such a powerful scrummaging effort against the Argentinians, we can’t leave Dylan Smith in for his second selection for the season. Smith and Sadie have similar effective roles in phase play to Franks and Moody from the Crusaders, and are influential players in their team.
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