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 David Havili (Crusaders).
Havili’s job is under pressure and that would have ramped up as he saw Will Jordan slot into the right-wing position at the last minute for George Bridge, and then the youngster scored a good opportunistic try to open the Crusaders account. However, Havili jumped on an error himself minutes later and grabbed another just after half time. Interesting in the reshuffles in the second half that Goodhue was preferred at 12 and Havili was kept at the back; he is ranked as the world’s number 9 fullback in RugbyPass Index. Damian Willemse had a classy outing for the Stormers as well.
14 Jack Maddocks (Rebels)
When you are talking about right wings, two in the pantheon of 14s are Jeff Wilson and Doug Howlett. I find Maddocks attributes very similar as all three are great athletes and have a ‘flow’. There’s not much on the field that the Rebels wing can’t do and he is well synched up with the capers that Genia and Cooper are running flat on the advantage line. Two well completed 5 pointers and is currently Super Rugby’s top try- scorer.
13 Jesse Kriel (Bulls)
I don’t know if Lukhanyo Am’s Mum was picking Player of the Day in Durban but sadly I didn’t think he even outplayed his opposite. It was hard to pinpoint how the Bulls beat the Sharks but it is easy to see how the players are happy to go to round-robin from 2021 as local derbies are extremely physical and tense, especially in South Africa where there is so much running at players rather than holes.
12 Ma’a Nonu/Sonny Bill Williams (Blues)
Just as we picked the Sio/Slipper duo at loosehead prop the other week these two have turned into a one-two punch. Nonu was intense in the first half as he obviously knew he was playing limited time. Then on comes SBW to add some line breaking ability and the pop pass for Otere Black’s try will be one that goes into his highlight reel.
11 Semisi Masirewa (Sunwolves)
A hat-trick for the mercurial jack-in-box as the Tokyo franchise on death row beat the Waratahs in Newcastle 31-29. He plays with joy but he gives me the heebie-jeebies the way he precariously holds the ball in one hand. Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks) has an amazing first 10-metre acceleration but rarely has any room to move, sad.
10 Hayden Parker (Sunwolves)
There was a real logjam for honours at first five this week. Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders) got his season back on track, Quade Cooper (Rebels) was skillful AND brave and Handre Pollard led his team to an away victory against the run of play. BUT I love an underdog and there ain’t many like this guy leading his bunch of United Nations strays around the paddock with aplomb and strategic sense. And his goal- kicking, 27 from 27 already this season. I usually just forward through kicks if I am reviewing tape but the inside-out conversion from the sideline was a zany mix of science and art.
9 Will Genia (Rebels)
Returned to Suncorp with his shunned ex-Reds brother Quade Cooper and reduced Brad Thorn to maniacal chuckles in the coaches box by the end of the match. The chemistry they have is such a resource and Michael Cheika would have to consider them the way they are driving the Rebels. Genia has never been delicate but there is real steel to him this year, you can sense his determination in World Cup year.
8 Dan du Preez (Sharks)
His battle with Duane Vermeulen (Bulls) was one of the mini-Springbok trials going on across the field and for me, de Preez edged the incumbent …. just. One might argue that Vermeulen’s two turnovers were the turning point in the Bull’s victory but it was a wake-up call for big Duane if he was getting complacent.
7 Angus Cottrell (Rebels)
Playing in the unfamiliar 7 jersey and having a second outing at captain would have been a challenge for most players but the Super rugby veteran took it in his stride. Managed to negate the fast and athletic Liam Wright (Reds) and added his normal brutal collision work to the mix. Cottrell’s grandfather and Dad had played for Queensland but the emotion was cast aside on the park as the Rebels go to the top of the Aussie Conference.
6 Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)
There is much made of Damian McKenzie’s push to fullback on how the Chiefs got their season back but I would say that Jacobson was the strongest agent. His shoulders must be made of titanium and he has really hurt people, tough people in the last fortnight in Pretoria and Buenos Aires. The Chiefs defence was rickety before he came along; he sets the tone now. As well as physicality Jacobson is blessed with a great rugby brain, he anticipates well and that gives him time fire shots or smother with a blanket. Just what you need at 6 and that shouldn’t be under-estimated.
5 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Started his season last week with a limp loss against the Waratahs. The Crusaders reacted as they usually do, they didn’t panic they just made sure they executed their game plan this week. As with the All Blacks acclaim, Whitelock some times doesn’t get the kudos of a wide-ranging Retallick but if you choose to focus on Whitelock in phase play for a couple of minutes you can genuinely see why he is world class, alongside his set-piece play of course.
4 Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)
What a ding-dong battle he had with Eben Etzebeth. Both captains who lead from the front, incredibly physical and deadly determined. So often we see Etzebeth monstering opposition for fun so the classic dumping he received was kind of satisfying for non-Stormers fans, if not a little humiliating for the great man.
3 Nepo Laulala (Chiefs)
Second week in a row for Laulala. The tighthead got a rare start and is really gaining some momentum in stating his case for RWC inclusion.
2 Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers)
In a week where Malcolm Marx and the Lions had a bye, it was a chance for the other South African hookers to stake a claim. Mbonambi was inspirational as the Stormers finally gave the ball some air and looked great for many parts of the game. Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Britz, however, did themselves no favours with double reds in Durban. Actually, with Tanielu Tele’a’s sending off that might be a record for reds in a round of Super rugby. Does anyone remember another weekend where it might have been higher?
1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks) The Beast equalled the South African record held by Adriaan Strauss of most Super caps at 156 and wound back the clock with some typical forays with ball-in-hand and kept the scrum steady. He has been such a great servant to the game and can’t wait to see him break the record.
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