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 – Damian MacKenzie (Chiefs)
Second week in a row. The Chiefs had a game plan and they executed. Boy did they execute and it started at the back, edges and sometimes first receiver with DMac. They managed to keep the ball, dancing into space and teasing the Bulls, who just could not keep up with the skill or pace. Then, with the game in the bag, we saw McKenzie much more in the pocket with some canny kicking and pegging the Bulls back in their own half. Outstanding goal kicking as well. Great to see Ben Smith start to stretch his legs, and the battle with Melani Nanai at Eden Park was a beauty. Israel Folau was exceptional as he equalled the record of Doug Howlett’s 59 tries in Super Rugby.
14 – Wes Goosen (Hurricanes)
Finished two important tries in getting the Hurricanes home for an unlikely win. The Stormers forwards deserved a victory, but the Capetonian backs were awful, and SP Marais failing to stop Goosen on at least one of these one on one contests that led to tries was an abysmal effort. Gerhard van den Heever (Sunwolves) must be the form South African wing in Super Rugby, he is so accurate and lightning fast.
13 – Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)
So, you’re up against Crotty and Goodhue, you’d better be at your best, and Ashley-Cooper was irrepressible in the Waratahs’ victory against the champions. With Foley and Beale as fellow inside backs, he needed to carry like a dependable mule at times; probably not his natural game. His defensive work one on one and at the breakdown was hard-nosed, and that’s how you have to be if you want to beat the Crusaders.
12 – Alex Nankivell (Chiefs)
This was an illustration of how the Bulls might have underestimated the Chiefs at Loftus. No Lienert-Brown on the team sheet, but they didn’t reckon with the straight-running, no-nonsense Nankivell. Two tries and great support.
11 – Rieko Ioane (Blues)
Majestic. As with any finisher of this magnitude we just wish he could see more ball. Waisake Naholo was sucked of any confidence after having to mark his All Blacks team mate and be given the run around.
10 – Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
Barrett comes and goes in games, but on Saturday, he converted his touches into points. His goal-kicking is looking smooth as well. The emphasis on him as a key at the World Cup for the All Blacks has heightened with McKenzie’s blossoming at fullback and Richie Mo’unga’s sleepy start to the season.
9 – Louis Schrueder (Sharks)
Ran the game well for the Natal-based team as they over ran the gutsy Rebels in Durban. His great option taking was underlined in the 52nd minute. The Rebels had the Sharks under the cosh for the first ten minutes of the second half and were denied the lead by some staunch defence. Then, first chance on attack, Schrueder put in a looping miss pass to find three undefended team mates. Momentum back and on for the win.
8 – Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
Had Rahboni Warren-Voyasco (Sunwolves) pencilled in until the Sunday evening, and then the Queensland No. 8 had a very strong game, outplaying the in-form Lachie McCaffrey and just reminding the Wallabies selectors that he is an option. Wasn’t a complete 80-minute performance, but he was one of the leaders in an awesome defensive effort.
7 – Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
The Waratahs loose trio (Hannigan, Dempsey and Hooper) outplayed the much-vaunted Crusaders threesome and that led to Hooper making Matt Todd look very ordinary. I’m not sure it’s ever happened before where Todd was so ineffectual. Liam Wright (Reds) continues to work hard.
6 – Tom Robinson (Blues)
There’s been a lot of talk on who might be an All Black ‘bolter’ this year. It’s rare in World Cup year but you’d have to say this guy is putting his hand up. Seemed to get the upper hand in his battle against Shannon Frizell. I think the real litmus test will be if he can keep up his energy, work rate and enthusiasm against bigger South African packs. Luke Jacobson got a start on the blindside and was dynamite on defence. Pieter-Steph du Toit is having a great season and would win the award for most consistent forward so far this season.
5 – Stephan Lewies (Lions)
His first year at the Lions from the Sharks via Japan and he looks fitter and sharper than in previous seasons. There’re some quality locks in South Africa, but he wouldn’t disgrace himself if he got the chance to add to his sole test outing.
4 – Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
As Sam Whitelock played his first game this weekend, Retallick seems to have been through a season worth of stress and wear and tear already. He rolled his sleeves up against the Bulls and showed his physicality, but also some deft touches, like a pick up on his shoelaces and a pass into space in one movement. Two tries and generous enough to give his half back a try to avoid a hat trick shout, although you would imagine he has copped a fine for that!
3 – Nepo Laulala (Chiefs)
The tighthead came off the bench and kept the momentum going for the Chiefs. Gets the pick mainly for living any props dream of a tiny wing trying to run straight through you. He almost knocked Rosco Speckman’s dreads off!
2 – Malcolm Marx (Lions)
Why does Marx look so joyless? He is the best hooker in the world! Even with the weight of leadership, you could give us a smirk after scoring a couple of tries and more getting more steals than Bernie Madoff.
1 – Simphiwe Matanzima (Bulls)
‘The Beast’ – 33-year-old Tendai Mtawaria (Sharks) – will hopefully drag himself to the World Cup later this year to form a formidable loosehead duo with Steven Kitshoff, but Matanzima, at 21-years-old, looks like he might be shaping as a fit replacement when there is life without ‘The Beast’. Scrumming technique is still a work in progress, but has exceptional ball handling and running ability.
Watch – Raelene Castle on Sunwolves axing:
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