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 Tom Banks (Brumbies)
Banks took the opportunity to remind the Wallaby selectors that life without Izzy Folau might not be as tough as they fear. Having said that I doubt that Banks will wear the 15 jersey in big tests later in the season. He appears to have a light kicking game and showed the annoying penchant of running cross-field, unlike Damian McKenzie. Ben Smith (Highlanders) showed glimpses of his class in his 150th Super game. I have been really impressed with the maturity of Warrick Gelant (Bulls) this season. He seems to have been around for years but he is only 23 and he has shaved the loose edges off his game to have a strong balance of safety and creativity in his game. His return from injury was instrumental in the Bulls improvements as they tickled up the Reds 32-17.
14 Sevu Reece (Crusaders)
Started on the right wing but caused carnage on the left flank in the second half. Finished with zeal and the empathetic pass to space that Mitchell Drummond caught with glee was world class.
13 Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies)
The Fijian has struck a rich vein of form with a powerful display for the Brumbies as they dismissed the Lions 31-20. He is one of those players who seems to have sharp edges on his frame, a nightmare to tackle (ask poor stitched up Lionel Mapoe) and a potent defender. For a big man (192cm/ 102kg) he has agile footwork.
12 Anton Lienert Brown (Chiefs)
What a battle royale in Hamilton between the two All Black 12’s Nonu and ALB. Nonu launched himself (literally) to power in for a try at the 59-minute mark to start a Blues comeback, then got another to give them a chance with 2 minutes to go. ALB had to step up as the creator when Damian McKenzie hobbled off and was influential in the style the Chiefs resorted to win the match.
11 Dillyn Leyds (Stormers)
One of those players that ghosts through gaps and makes the most of his line breaks with good decisions and precision passing at speed. The way he ran in his first try with a solo run from 38 metres just doesn’t happen anymore with defensive systems the way they are. And the try he set up for Damian de Allende from a run off a line out was superb. Braydon Ennor (Crusaders) was prominent as well.
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)
Mo’unga has it all. He has the mastermind, a great kicking game and above that he has incredible pace, and exceptional ability to break the line and is a tough little defensive nugget. Rugby Player Index has him at world number 1.
9 Tomas Cubelli (Jaguares)
This guy has become such key lynchpin in the Jaguares. Keeps his forward pack focused, kept the heat off his green flyhalf and is everywhere in support. Will play a big part in the Pumas shot at the RWC later this year as well. Depending on Creevy’s fitness it wouldn’t surprise me if they give him the captain’s armband for the tournament. Brad Weber (Chiefs) was electric too and hats off to Herschel Jantjes for his energy.
8 Paul Schoeman (Bulls)
As Duane Vermeulen took a well deserved week off I am sure the Reds weren’t expecting a threat from number 8. Wrong. This guy was everywhere, wading through yards of ball carrying, big tackles and presence in the tackle. Worked well in tandem with another comeback kid, Marco van Staden.
7 Dalton Papalii (Blues)
The 2018 star has been a little understated this season but he underlined what he can bring to the party at the Battle of the Bombays. Prominent at the tackle and on the fringes he was very thirsty for work. His battle with Lachlan Boshier was one of the many mini-battles that went on round the park and made for such an enticing delight.
6 Pablo Matera (Jaguares)
The second week in a row. Has added much more to his game than the raw power and determination we saw at the start of his career. The chip and chase try from 65-metres out against the Sharks was the velvet glove. The Sharks promised to come out and turn things around in the second half but were dealt the iron fist by Matera in the 43rd minute. 28-10 at that stage the fat lady started warming up.
5 RG Snyman (Bulls)
Threw a crazy pass with his first touch but as he said in his Man of the Match interview, he was just throwing off the rust. This guy’s skill set is incredible and I am sure once he gets to top game-play fitness he’ll work on his scrummaging and clean-outs but shapes as a great foil to someone like Etzebeth at the RWC.
4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
The rangy second ranker never lacks for effort but I don’t think I have seen him more animated. Seemed to be trying his luck with the offside line at the end of the game but I think he won the ambassadorial battle with referee Angus Gardiner.
3 Michael Alaalatoa (Crusaders)
Battle supreme up front with Malcolm Marx and may not have been quite as dynamic as the Lions captain but he had a lower error rate and his team won. Agustin Creevy was enthusiastic off the bench in his comeback as well and certainly won ‘the Barnacle of the Week’ award.
1 Karl Tuinukuafe (Blues)
Everything this guy does is packed with power but what finesse he showed with his double handling in the buildup to Melani Nanai’s try just before halftime! Kept Nepo Laulala under control at scrum time as well. James Slipper is influential as well and upping his game around the field.
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