15. Charles Piutau (Blues)
The Blues fullback is probably one of the strongest around. He joined the line at pace and kept the Hurricanes’ defense very busy.
14. Frank Halai (Blues)
Another real tough guy in the Blues backline. Despite earning himself a yellow card and conceding a penalty try, he came back on with a vengeance and made sure that he had the final say in his team’s runaway victory by dotting down a second time in the dying minutes of the game.
13. Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs)
Not even the loss of their two legendary kahunas (SBW to league and Richard Kahui to injury) could deter the Chiefs’ midfield from being sensational. The youngster is a true opportunist and if you allow him even an inch of space, he’ll make you pay – as he did twice against the Highlanders.
12. Francis Saili (Blues)
Yes, it’s the third Blues player in the team. Even considering Ben Tapuai’s brace, it is this inside centre’s manoeuvring and airtight defence that allowed his teammates to excel as they did.
11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders)
He often goes almost unnoticed even when he puts in the hard work, but this time the Highlanders’ captain got himself on the scoreboard in addition to his usual telling runs.
10. Demetri Catrakilis (Kings)
I did consider Pat Lambie as he didn’t put a foot wrong, and although Catrakilis didn’t have the most desirable day with the boot, it was the way he took control of the match in the second half and his cool head under pressure that gave his team the tactical advantage.
9. Nic White (Brumbies)
He came up against stronger opposition this week, but everyone else looked rather rusty and he replied with a scrumhalf’s first, second and third priorities. He swept the rucks with speed and efficiency, providing his team with plenty of front-foot ball.
8. Jacques Engelbrecht (Kings)
Engelbrecht came on as a replacement after the Kings’ captain Luke Watson took a blow to the throat, and what an impact he made. Just about every time he touched the ball, he broke through the defense and tackled as if his life depended on it.
7. Marcel Coetzee (Sharks)
This openside flanker is a real terrier and made life very difficult for the Cheetahs at the breakdown. Not only is he a strong youngster, but he has nimble feet and a keen eye for the line.
6. Eddie Quirk (Reds)
Who said the Reds would miss Scott Higginbotham? He pounced on anything lose and wriggled his way through many tackles. Add to that his great vision and the amount of yards he puts on the clock when he breaks the line, and you have one very useful loose forward.
5. Steven Sykes (Kings)
The Kings’ lock made a nuisance of himself on the opposition’s throw and tackled for all his worth. Although he conceded too many penalties, he played a central role in his team’s historic victory.
4. Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes)
Not only did he successfully secure the Hurricanes’ ball time and again, he was by far the most dependable jumper in a weekend that didn’t see many shining stars in the second row.
3. Ben Afeaki (Chiefs)
The Chiefs’ tighthead was outstanding in defence and provided a good, strong platform in the scrum for the rest of his team to work from.
2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
Even though he didn’t have the best day at the office, the Cheetahs’ captain lead from the front and made his presence felt all over the park.
1. Pek Cowan (Force)
He was one the wrong side of my coin flip last week, but this time around the Force’s loosehead made sure he got noticed. Not only did he put the Kings’ scrum under constant pressure, he successfully powered his way over the try line as well.
By Jackie Smit