15. Israel Folau (Waratahs)
Another formidable performance by the Tahs fullback sees him retain his place in the team. Not only does he have power, speed and great hands, he showed some skilful footwork to effortlessly beat the Bulls defenders for the opening try. Definitely pushing hard for a Wallaby jumper even as Jesse Mogg continues to show his worth – these two men would no doubt be part of my Australian 22 ahead of the Lions tour.
14. Gio Aplon (Stormers)
Interesting enough, the last time the nippy little Stormers winger earned selection here, was before Bryan Habana got injured. Coincidence? I think not. Somehow they bring the best out of each other, and it showed against the Hurricanes. He was much more industrious with ball in hand and although his defense is a bit sketchy, he created a couple of crucial turn-overs for his team.
13. René Ranger (Blues)
In my opinion Ranger is probably the most dangerous outside center in the competition. There was a lot of pre-season talk of him being fitter, faster and stronger than ever, evidently they weren’t lying – he has an absolute look of determination at making the 13 jumper his own. The most astonishing things is not how devastating he is on attack, but the amount of turn-over ball he creates from tackles made.
12. Jackson Willison (Blues)
The fact that the Blues failed to convert their abundance of opportunities into more tries, could by no means be blamed on their midfield pair. Willison only got his third start of the season and showed some serious improvement by scoring a try against possibly their toughest opponents yet. He is always mindful of his support runners when carrying the ball and rarely slips a tackle.
11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Chiefs)
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think one miraculous act qualifies a player for a spot in a Team of the Week. Therefore, even though Bryan Habana deserves an accolade for his charge-down, the honour of being awarded the 11 jumper goes to the Chiefs barnstorming speedster who broke a rather lengthy dry spell to cross the white wash for the hosts’ first try. It would benefit the Waikato warriors to get more ball to this quality pace-man.
10. Morné Steyn (Bulls)
It seems a switch has been flicked in the Pretorian pivot’s repertoire. There can be no doubt of his goal kicking ability, but it’s been his attitude with ball in hand that has pleasantly surprised me in his last couple of outings. He is distributing the ball nicely and has become increasingly active in the midfield, the doubt he now creates in the opposition’s mind effectively leading to the try he so deservedly scored.
Having had a vital hand in every one of the Cheetahs’ three tries, the Free State scrumhalf forced himself into selection for the first time. He has a keen eye for a gap and plenty of pace to burn and all those attributes are complimented by his superb support play and the vision he shows when carrying the ball. For the Bulls Francois Hougaard came back with a bang and after spending such a long time on the side, it was great to see him playing with such confidence again.
8. Lubabalo Mtembu (Sharks)
You can’t ask for a better “debut” than the man at the back of the Sharks’ scrum delivered. Prior to his run on against the defending champs, the former Sevens players accumulated a meagre 31 minutes on the park at this level. It is early days in his career, but at first sight he did everything you want from an eightman and more. Both Scott Higginbotham and Duane Vermeulen put in strong performances of their own, but the rookie got a raw deal and announced himself in emphatic fashion.
7. Luke Braid (Blues)
For once the openside flanker overshadowed his partner on the other side of the engine and took it upon himself to get his team over the advantage line and made some simply amazing offloads. The Reds didn’t ask many questions of the Blues defenders, but on the odd occasion that they attempted, Braid stopped them in their tracks.
6. Liam Messam (Chiefs)
By far his best game this season. Earned himself and assist with each of the Chiefs’ first two tries by beautifully putting his backs into space. He combined well with his support runners and had a solid day on defense.
5. Juandré Kruger (Bulls)
They had to fight rather hard for their win against the Waratahs and had it not been for this man’s superior ability to read and disrupt the Sydney franchise’s lineouts, it could have been a whole different ball game. Together with his partner Flip van der Merwe and Bulls captain Pierre Spies, they snuffled six against the throw, effectively creating turnover possession at crucial times.
4. De Kock Steenkamp (Stormers)
Down in Cape Town they were worried aplenty at the prospect of not having the powerful Eben Etzebeth around for the first half of the competition, but by ensuring the basics are done right, the soaring Steenkamp has eased their fears by demonstrating a safe pair of hands and poaching more than double the amount of opposition ball than any other lock.
3. James Slipper (Reds)
He is as dependable as they come in the font row. The Reds can thank their lucky stars for a workhorse of his calibre, for without the mammoth amount of tackles made by their leading prop, it could very easily turned into a blue day for them.
Leading the way for tries scored by a forward and he’s right up there with the best hookers in every other aspect of the game. He is a sure bet at lineout time and gives it his all even for a losing cause.
1.Wiehahn Herbst (Sharks)
I was at bit of a loss in selecting a loosehead prop this week and after a considerable amount of head scratching, I opted to break aforementioned protocol and reward a player for the marvellous play he pulled off in one specific frame of time. To top of his solid scrummaging in the absence of the Beast, Herbst displayed a sublime bit of skill to dummy to create space and put Keegan Daniel over chalk for the Sharks’ bonus point try.