The round got off to a feisty derby in New Zealand. The Blues managed to lose their fifth game of the season, in contrast the Hurricanes continued to sweep all that was before them.
The Rebels edged the Australian derby against the Force as they managed to win a must win match to stay in touch with the rest of the sides. Waratahs and the Lions fell victim to the New Zealand sides (Highlanders and Crusaders) away from home as the Tahs looked a shadow of themselves from the season past. While it still remains early on points bagged will always be better than point hoped for.
The Chiefs managed to beat the Stormers in Cape Town, while the Cheetahs season has continued to spiral dismally. The Reds continued their woeful start to the season as they got thumped by the Brumbies who produced an exceptional forwards game. Next weekend’s picks will be much more difficult with some mammoth clashes on the cards. The Super XV of this round is:
15. Mike Harris (Rebels)
They had to win the game and the former Reds star was at the heart of everything the Rebels managed to achieve. He managed to score 16 points this weekend, including an exceptional try. The Rebels take on the the Lions next and the Aussie man was by far the man of the moment against the Force. Mike is my pick for this team’s last line of defense.
14. Lolagi Visinia (Blues)
The Highlanders’ wings were brilliant. However this Blues flyer was just exceptional. The 90m try which he scored was a sign that when the Blues get it together they will be a force. The flyer managed to add four line breaks that should have punished the hurricanes. Visinia is a bright prospect worth keeping an eye on.
13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)
What will stand out on people’s minds after this round will be the MacGyver style the All Black star pulled off to rob Israel Folau of the ball in a momentum shifting play as the Highlanders continued their resurgence. Racking up three turnovers was also impressive. The guile with which the centre beats defenders makes him such a threat. His reputation continues to grow.
12. Ma’a Nonu (Hurricanes)
The All black centre produced a strong performance as he managed to sweep defenders aside, create tries and looking solid on defense. The Hurricanes continue to grow as a side and will be well placed on the log having played a game less than most of the sides.
11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes)
The bus was at his best this weekend as he scored two tries against the Blues. His support play was magnificent and the New Zealander managed to carry massively around the park and making a round high five clean breaks. The top try scorer this season. The All Black is making a massive statement once again this season. A weapon on the wing! What can stop Savea?
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
A dominant display from the man as he continues to vie for the all Black 10 jersey with Beauden Barrett and the recently returned Dan Carter who was not that bad. A well taken try which saw him beat Cheslin Kolbe in a momentum shifting moment for the Chiefs, nailing vital penalties and creating a try. A master’s show from Aaron Cruden. Cruden, who had a good kicking weekend, looks to build on the consistency. The biggest flaw the All Black 10’s have is their goal-kicking potency. Lima Sopoaga was very close to piping the Chiefs man.
9. Nic White (Brumbies)
In a game which saw his forwards dominate the opposition White was magnificent. To have the level of control, directing and vision he had was pivotal. The Australian was also able to create three tries and worked wonders with ball in hand and with the boot. The Brumbies relied heavily on his distribution and tactical nous as the Brumbies managed to dismantle a messy reds side.
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders)
The return of the skipper has galvanized the Crusaders. After a couple of weeks out the former IRB Player of the year managed to not just grab his side’s fourth try but was at the heart of creating Andy Ellis’ opening try as well. The man has given the side a lift and the Crusaders will look to build on the win.
7. Sean McMahon (Rebels)
McMahon was a menace, brutal and clinical. The Australian international was brilliant in a hard fought win away at the Force. The flanker was all over the park and instrumental for the away side. A round high 23 tackles also making it clear how vital the flanker was.
6. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks)
This is the form player in his position in the country. I am all too familiar with the monster that is Coetzee. Remembering a tackle that left me dazed with a smile. The confusion. Few will match him in the tournament as arguably the best. Marcell has been a beast. The flanker was on song this weekend as he got two tries from the back of a lethal Sharks maul. On defense he also held nothing back with 13 tackles.
5. Luke Jones (Rebels)
The Rebels man was calm under pressure and strong in the set piece. A source of clean light out ball for the Rebels and a work horse on the park as Jones managed 12 tackles. Luke was instrumental at the break down as he managed to get one turnover from under the Force’s nose. A memorable 50th cap!
4. Mouritz Botha (Sharks)
The lime light is focused solely upon PSdT. He is viewed as the best lock the Sharks have, and rightly so. His injury will require the second row personnel at the Sharks to step up. The former England international went about his duty quietly. Dominant in the set piece, a functional in the line out and making over 90% of his tackles. The source of two of the tries the Sharks managed to score via the maul. Botha had a very good game for the Sharks in the engine room.
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
Third on the Top try scorer charts! Big Ben has been in scintillating form. The Australian prop who was a workhorse in the previous weeks had a rather silent day. While the scrums looked like a mess, the prop managed to get away with two tries, taking his season tally to three. He made a massive contribution towards the Brumbies pack and punished the woeful Reds in all the departments.
2. Ben Funnell (Crusaders)
The hooker was very good, as he was part of the most devastating scrimmaging show of the weekend. Redelinghuys was destroyed and this was thanks in part to the help that Funnell gave to Wyatt Crockett. The Crusaders set piece was functioning brilliantly and Ben was the man at the heart of it all. Should he manage to keep his playing standard at this level he could be competing with Dan Coles for the black shirt of New Zealand.
1. Vincent Koch (Stormers)
His versatility allows me to move him to the loose head role. The prop has been a revelation for the Stormers. The Pumas are likely never to see him on their shore as his reputation has grown significantly over the last few weeks. The substitutions made by the Stormers in the scrum affected their momentum in the second half. It contributed to the defeat in the end. Koch was colossal in the pack for the Cape side.