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. Israel Folau (Waratahs) 2nd selection in two weeks. Continued his good form in Tokyo with two tries and gets the call over his compatriot Tom Banks (Brumbies). Banks was a fire-cracker on attack and showed real pace.
14. Gerhard van den Heever (Sunwolves). The South African took advantage of the Japanese ?Barbarian style to show sizzling pace in the collection of his brace of tries. Bautista Delguy (Jaguares) and Melani Nanai (blues) kept defences busy as well.
13. Jordan Petaia (Reds). This was probably the most competitive position this week, some quality performances in the 13 jersey this week. The 18 year old was freakish in his strength through the hips and ability to keep his feet. What an amazing prospect for the Wallabies. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders), Tevita Kurindrani (Brumbies), Shane Gates (Sunwolves), Matias Orlando (Jaguares) and Lukhanyo Am (Sharks) all nipping at his heels.
12. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders). Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) and Samu Kerevi (Reds) played well in their first outings for the Super season but Crotty put in the classic Warwick Taylor performance, oozing glue as the rest of the Crusaders backline cut capers.
11. George Bridge (Crusaders). Bridge constantly delights with his silky running skills. Could he be the Kiwi bolter for this year’s World Cup?
10. Josh Ioane (Highlanders). The message has been that all players have been working hard over the off-season but maybe we should do a Boudjellal DNA test on this young fella. He has really matured and looks a different player; the kicking, passing and tackling skills have been irrepressible. It’s great to see Christian Leilafano (Brumbies) stepping up as well in RWC year. He was very much the conductor in the Brumbies orchestra in their stunning win over the Chiefs.
9. Tomas Cubelli (Jaguares) The Argentinian returned from two seasons at the Brumbies to show he has grown while he was away. The Jaguares are renowned for poor game management but with Cubelli at the cutter there is some certainty.
8. Jack Dempsey (Waratahs). The number 8 enjoyed the open nature of the match up against the Sunwolves. He’ll have tougher days but he continuing his good come back from long-term injury.
7. Kwagga Smith (Lions). Kwagga’s been at the gym. The shoulders and upper body show he has evolved from sevens specialist to man who is keen to play an influential role at this year’s World Cup. His new physique has improved his ground game and collisions and he hasn’t lost the ball-playing skill and decision making in open play.
6. Shannon Frizell (Highlanders). Steve Hansen laid down the challenge last week and boy did some number 6s step up. Frizell might not have the noticeable mop of red hair like the impressive Tom Robinson but he uses his preposterous power to win collisions and convert chances into five pointers close to the line. You don’t get bigger macho clashes than a Bulls v Jaguares match up and Marcos Kremer was the scariest hombre in BA.
5. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers). It was inconceivable that the Stormers would win with 26 minutes left at Newlands. They’d continued their moribund form and looked to be heading to a sorry 0-2 record. Then on came the Springbok star and he dragged the Cape Town team to a victory with his sheer will and physical power. Ruan Botha (Sharks) was an obelisk all around the park.
4. Scott Barrett (Crusaders). Second selection in two weeks. Both the Crusaders and the Hurricanes missing leaders it was important for others to step up. Scott Barrett was the exemplar of that, with two tries early in each half and brute physicality he will leave Scott Robertson and Steve Hansen no chance to leave him out of starting line-ups in 2019.
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders). What is the best adjective for a tighthead? Solid? That’s what big Owie does season after season and Crusaders diehards love him for it.
2. Akker van de Merwe (Sharks). Second selection in two weeks. Continued his mixture of brute power and mauling knowledge to make a real difference against the Blues.
1. James Slipper (Brumbies). It seems like Brad Thorn’s casting aside of Slipper, Cooper and Hunt has been a win-win. All three players have asserted themselves at their new clubs and the Red’s team spirit is palpable. Slipper won his battle against Nepo Laulala and set a solid platform for his team’s victory.
Rugby World Cup City Guides – Kumamoto:
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