Another round of Super Rugby has drawn to a close and Alex McLeod is back with his Team of the Week, which is somewhat Kiwi-Lite with the Hurricanes having had the bye and zero Crusaders making the grade.
1 – Juan Schoeman (Sharks)
Juan Schoeman opens this round’s Team of the Week, with the Sharks loosehead prop earning selection in a week where front rowers struggled to shine.
The 26-year-old did well while in possession of the ball against the Stormers, making the most of the four carries that he had to run for 19 metres, with the majority of those coming from the solitary clean break he made.
He was up to the task on defence as well, making four of his five tackles, while also playing a key role in his side’s 100% success rate at the scrum to round out a good display.
Pierre Schoeman (Bulls) was the only other loosehead in contention for this week’s side after his admirable showing against the Rebels.
2 –Malcolm Marx (Lions)
As the Lions romped to a 29-0 shutout against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night, Malcolm Marx played to a degree that may have just made him the best player in the competition for round 10.
He’s already the best player in South Africa, and his performance across all facets against the Australian conference leaders strengthened his case as the best player in the southern hemisphere.
62 running metres for a hooker is ridiculous, and they were easily made for the 23-year-old, who beat five defenders to break the Waratahs’ defensive line three times.
Enhancing his offensive statistics are his figures without ball in hand. While four out of five tackles completed may not seem to be anything spectacular, his work at the breakdown was sublime, as it resulted in him winning a whopping four turnovers for last year’s finalists.
As a bonus, a 100% throwing record at the lineout completed his superb showing in the New South Wales capital, putting him ahead of Adriaan Strauss (Bulls) and Ash Dixon (Highlanders) as the competition’s in-form hooker.
3 – Jiwan Koo (Sunwolves)
Like their loosehead counterparts, this was a slow week for the tighthead props around Super Rugby.
While the return of Owen Franks (Crusaders) from a long injury lay-off sparked the most public interest during the round, it was the efforts of his opposition’s #3 Jiwan Koo that are good enough to win him selection in this week’s side.
Koo’s second straight selection in RugbyPass’ TOTW comes after a humble yet effective showing against the reigning champions in awful conditions in Christchurch. The South Korean-born prop wasn’t afraid to ask questions of the sturdy Crusaders defence, carrying the ball for 16 metres from only two carries in the tight channels.
Not only is that a decent effort for a prop, but it’s also not bad considering the quality of the opposition. He was defensively strong as well, registering just one missed tackle to round out a satisfactory display in the Sunwolves’ 33-11 defeat at AMI Stadium.
4 – Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
The Chiefs put the Reds to the sword at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night, and, as per usual, at the forefront of their 36-12 victory was none other than Brodie Retallick.
The 26-year-old veteran refused to slow down for the entirety of his side’s clash in the Queensland capital, which saw him bag a hard-earned try following some determined runs with the pill in the tight channels.
With 13 tackles and a turnover won to his name, Retallick was at his defensive best, and the Queenslanders couldn’t match it. His contribution to the Chiefs’ 100% lineout win percentage is the icing on top of the cake, and the 68-test All Black will play a massive role in how far the Chiefs will go into this year’s Super Rugby play-offs.
Fellow Kiwi international Scott Barrett (Crusaders) was just as spectacular in Christchurch as his team downed the Sunwolves in the match beforehand.
5 – Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders)
There were a trio of standout performers in the #5 jersey over the weekend, but it’s Jackson Hemopo who reigns supreme for round 10.
The Highlanders lock was in fine form as the Dunedin-based franchised smashed their way to a 34-16 win over the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland, living up to the pre-season expectations laid upon him that suggested he would be a key member of his team’s forward pack.
He’s done just that so far this season, and Friday night was no different, as he ploughed through the opposition defence for 19 metres with ball in hand, while also managing to register an outstanding 15 tackles and a turnover for the southerners.
A brilliant effort by the 24-year-old Maori All Black, who no doubt will have an outside chance of being named in the national squad for the June test series.
Tyler Ardron (Chiefs) and Lood de Jager (Bulls) can consider themselves extremely unfortunate to have not made the cut following their matches in Brisbane and Pretoria respectively.
6 – Shannon Frizell (Highlanders)
This was one of a few positions that had a plethora of contenders fighting it out against one another for a spot in this week’s team, but in the end, Shannon Frizell’s excellent shift in Auckland earns him the role of blindside flanker for this round’s TOTW.
The brother of Australian rugby league star Tyson, the younger Frizell ran rampant around Eden Park, thrusting himself into the national spotlight and making himself another low key All Black contender following a string of comprehensive displays in the #6 jersey in the absence of the injured Liam Squire.
The Tongan-born 24-year-old managed to bag a hat-trick of tries as a result of his attacking efforts, which saw him make a pair of clean breaks and collect 36 running metres. Additionally, 14 tackles and a turnover won showed his eagerness across all facets of play, leaving coach Aaron Mauger with a tricky decision of where to put the rookie when Squire returns from his broken thumb.
Others to impress across the southern hemisphere were Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Phillip van der Walt (Sharks), Ethan Blackadder (Crusaders), Kwagga Smith (Lions), and Thomas Cussack (Brumbies).
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers)
While there was a flurry of candidates to fill the #7 jersey for this week’s side, Pieter-Steph du Toit made a massive statement during his side’s tense 24-17 loss to the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban.
The 25-year-old Springboks lock/loose forward showcased his versatility in the openside flanker position, ripping apart the Sharks’ defence on multiple occasions to put the Stormers on the front foot. This is reflected in his 47 running metres, which saw him evade a quartet of defenders to make a brace of line breaks.
On the other side of the game, his 13 tackles were impressive enough, but his ability to snatch three turnovers for the men from Cape Town was fantastic. Add to that three lineout wins for the 12th-placed side, and the Stormers have one of the best utility forwards on the planet playing at his best on the weekend.
A vast array of openside flankers can count themselves unfortunate to have made the XV this week, including Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks), Thembelani Bholi (Bulls), Pieter Labuschagne (Sunwolves), and Dillon Hunt (Highlanders).
8 – Amanaki Mafi (Rebels)
Another week has passed, which means another inclusion of Amanaki Mafi in our TOTW.
As outlined in our mid-season Super Rugby Awards, Mafi is an offensive freak of nature, as he proved during his side’s 28-10 defeat at the hands of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
121 metres is the total amount that he carried the ball for, which takes his season total to a ridiculous 695m. As well as that, he carried the ball 22 times during the weekend’s clash, showing that the Rebels are looking to extract as much out of the Japanese bulldozer as possible.
The Tongan-born 28-year-old also upheld his defensive responsibilities, making 10 tackles and winning a turnover for the Melbourne franchise, which was enough to see him named in the Team of the Week for a third time this year.
Luke Whitelock (Highlanders), Kazuki Himeno (Sunwolves), and Isi Naisarani (Brumbies) all put in big shifts for their respective sides across Australasia over the weekend.
9 – Michael Ruru (Rebels)
With Will Genia ruled out of the Rebels’ tour of South Africa, Michael Ruru had to put in a mammoth effort wanted to make a case to be the franchise’s starting halfback when their marquee player returns from a hamstring injury.
The 27-year-old New Zealander most certainly put in a big showing in his side’s first up loss against the Bulls on the Highveld. The older sibling of Blues halfback Jono was unafraid to have a crack at the South African defence, breaking the line twice to chalk up 52 running metres, resulting in him dotting down for his side’s only try of the encounter.
There was no lack of effort from Ruru on defence either, as he finished the match with total of six tackles to his name, showing the Rebels that they can survive in the #9 slot without the services of Genia.
Others to catch the eye over the weekend included Cameron Wright (Sharks), Kayne Hammington (Highlanders), and Jake Gordon (Waratahs).
10 – Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders)
The battle between the two first-fives from the South Island was a tight one, but Lima Sopoaga takes the cake over his local rival Mike Delany.
The Wasps-bound All Black was efficient against the Blues in Auckland, directing the game well in the #10 role, which played a large contributing factor in his side’s win. While his distribution and kicking skills were on show at Eden Park, he still showed a running game that constantly put the Blues on the back foot, as portrayed by his 58 running metres.
His defensive solidity helped the Highlanders’ cause, with seven tackles from nine attempts not too shabby of an effort. Nine points from the boot also built a healthy buffer for his side, and in the end, it was an all in all comprehensive effort from the 16-test pivot.
Delany (Crusaders) was also effective in his first start of the 2018 campaign, with the one-test All Black veteran putting on a show against the Sunwolves in poor conditions in Christchurch.
11 – Solomon Alaimalo (Chiefs)
With Ben Lam cooling his heels at home during the Hurricanes’ bye week, Solomon Alaimalo gets the chance to steal the left wing spot off his Most Improved Player of the Year rival.
Make no mistake about it, the outside back has been exceptional in his sophomore season with the Chiefs, and his outstanding campaign moved on to Brisbane, where the Reds struggled to keep him at bay.
The rangy speedster registered 95 running metres from three clean breaks, and although he couldn’t cross the tryline himself, he did manage to bag a try assist for hooker Liam Polwart. He finished off his outing at Suncorp Stadium with a trio of tackles, which helped the Chiefs to a convincing 36-12 thrashing against their Queensland opponents.
Manasa Mataele (Crusaders) and Rieko Ioane (Blues) are probably the two unluckiest players not to make this week’s side, while Emiliano Boffelli (Jaguares), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), and Michael Tambwe (Lions) all did very well.
12 – Samu Kerevi (Reds)
Samu Kerevi was inspirational for the Reds in their heavy defeat against the Chiefs, and was probably their only standout player.
He scored both of the Queenslanders’ tries in the second half, and had to beat six defenders in order to do so, which is no easy task against a Chiefs side hell-bent on making the play-offs despite their severe injury woes.
To top it off, he made 11 tackles – a figure no other back in the match in Brisbane could match, showing Kerevi’s commitment to the cause, and his desire to get a result over their trans-Tasman rivals.
The fight shown by the Reds captain earns him TOTW honours ahead of the likes of Tei Walden (Highlanders), Kurtley Beale (Waratahs), and Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), all of whom stood firm in their respective matches.
13 – Matias Orlando (Jaguares)
The Jaguares sprung their second successive upset win on Australian soil over the weekend, and at the crux of it all was centre Matias Orlando.
The 31-test midfielder was instrumental in the middle of the park, continually getting the South Americans over the Brumbies’ advantage line at GIO Stadium in Canberra to bring up 32 metres from 11 carries.
With his high level of activity with ball in hand, it comes as no surprise that the 26-year-old notched up a try, which was vital in the grand scheme of things as the Jaguares only won with a score reading 25-20.
What was also vital was Orlando’s defence. 16 tackles for a back is huge, but Orlando managed to make that many when the Brumbies had possession of the ball, and also won a turnover in the process.
As impressive as Rob Thompson (Highlanders) and Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) were, neither were as comprehensive in an all-round capacity as the Argentine.
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)
There wasn’t much to separate the contenders for the right wing spot in this week’s side, but the work of Sbu Nkosi (Sharks) was top notch against the Stormers in Durban.
The 22-year-old has been in fine form for the duration of Super Rugby this year, and that continued into this epic South African derby. While he didn’t bring up a try or a try assist, Nkosi’s 78 metres with the ball in his grasp significantly contributed to the Sharks getting over the line at the end of the 80 minutes, with he and his fellow outside backs combining to put the Stormers under pressure at various stages throughout the contest.
Nkosi was also targeted frequently on defence, and was forced to make five tackles on his right wing, which may well have been enough to hold out the Stormers en route to the Sharks’ 24-17 victory.
Meanwhile, in Pretoria, Jonny Kotze (Bulls) and Jack Maddocks (Rebels) went head-to-head against each other, but neither could conjure up the sort of influence that Nkosi had on his match.
15 – Curwin Bosch (Sharks)
Curwin Bosch was quite outstanding for the Sharks in their important win over the Stormers, with the electric youngster at his best as the hosts managed to get themselves over the line.
Combining with wingers Mapimpi and Nkosi, the 20-year-old was a constant threat in the Sharks’ back three, carving up the opposition defence to rake in 88 metres with ball in hand from only eight carries.
He was defensively effective as well, making the majority of his tackles as well as winning a turnover. If he can continue to keep up this good form in the second half of the Super Rugby season, then it would come as no surprise if new Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus decides to select the one-test international in the match-day side on a regular basis going forward.
Joaquin Tuculet (Jaguares) was Bosch’s biggest threat to selection in this week’s XV, while George Bridge (Crusaders), Warrick Gelant (Bulls), and Tom Banks (Brumbies) made significant contributions for their franchises.
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