15. Ben Smith (Highlanders)
In a hapless team that appears to be going nowhere fast, this fullback hasn’t put a foot wrong. His strong defense kept the scoreline reputable and he is a strong runner with loads of skill. The fact that Louis Ludik scored two tries was hard to deny, but the Sharks forwards overshadowed him in that particular feeding frenzy and although he had a solid performance, he wasn’t nearly as visible as Ben Smith.
14. Gio Aplon (Stormers)
They say dynamite comes in small packages and this little busybody is the living embodiment of that statement. His stepping made it look like Robbie Coleman’s feet were nailed to the grass. Newlands’ roof nearly blew off when he crossed for that first try, creating the spark that was needed to end the Brumbies winning streak and pocketing a rare four-try bonus point. Kade Poki is another Highlander bursting from his seams with speed and power; unfortunately his team is unable to properly make use of his abilities.
13. Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs)
Some might say that the Chiefs looked rather sluggish on Friday, but we’ll forgive that in view of their long travel back. The Waikato midfielder, however, was as energetic as ever, pouncing on anything loose and scored an opportunistic try that in hindsight probably took the wind from the Highlanders’ sails.
12. Kyle Godwin (Force)
I had to hold my breath every time the ball was given to this inside center. He looked dangerous with the pill in hand, breaking numerous tackles as he surged for the line and kept the door shut on the Free State flyers. Rob Horne was also solid on defense and did a lot of hard work for the Waratahs; therefore he deserves a mention as well.
11. Drew Mitchell (Waratahs)
A week after being dropped from the team, Mitchell delivered a performance that essentially kept his team in the game even when they seemed to be losing it. He was determined to get over the advantage line after he scored the early try, and together with Horne, Foley and Ashley-Cooper, really lifted their team’s game in the second half to secure a much sought-after victory.
10. Quade Cooper (Reds)
It is my opinion that the Reds’ flyhalf has put his dancing shoes back on now that Genia is back to inspire him. Cooper outsmarted the Bulls throughout the match, making a good break and perfect offload for the first try and then completely fooled the defenders to dot down under the posts. Not to mention that his kicking is improving with every game. I must also mention that Cheetahs’ Riaan Smit did an admirable job in the absence of Johan Goosen, slotting all the goals in their match against a fierce Force side.
9. Will Genia (Reds)
Never mind Quade Cooper, this little genius is the rudder around which the Reds move. When he is not there, they totally lose their way, which was again evident this weekend. Genia is the mastermind behind their attack, calling all the shots and relentlessly latching onto anyone who threatens the line. The manner in which he combines with Cooper is absolutely sublime and quite cardinal to their success. For the Sharks, Cobus Reinach had a massive game, clearing rucks swiftly and scoring a try.
8. Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
The Sharks skipper obviously took the humiliation from the previous week very personally and lifted his own game to a whole new level. Keegan made an early break from the scrum that lead to the home team’s first try and not long after powered his way over the line to score himself a five-pointer and a bonus point for his team. He was unstoppable in midfield, running the ball, putting players in space with great offloads – a true captain’s innings. The Crusaders’ Kieran Read also made quite a nuisance of himself against the Kings and could rightfully feel robbed at not being in this team, with Cheetahs’ Philip van der Walt also deserving a mention for the impact he has on attack and the amount of tackles he makes.
7. Sam Cane (Chiefs)
It was his defensive work and pilfering abilities that proved vital for the Chiefs and swung my vote ahead od George Smith. Matt Todd also worked hard under the radar, at least pocketing a try for his efforts.
6. George Whitelock (Crusaders)
Three tries undoubtedly get you a place in this team, especially if you work hard for them. It is an art to be in the right place at the right time, and this Whitelock brother seems to have perfected it. He was everywhere on the field, handling the ball on countless occasions as well as displaying great strength to break through the Kings defence.
5. Andries Bekker (Stormers)
No doubt the Stormers lock was out to prove a point in retrospect of all the talk about physicality prior to their clash with the Brumbies. We were entertained with plenty of bone-crushing tackles by the big man as well as a show of great skill and awareness as he ran excellent angles of the backs, making him hard to stop and enabling him to cross for two tries.
4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks)
Anton Bresler’s backup man really put his hand up for more starts. The youngster carried the ball strongly, always ready to offload if the opportunity was there and can consider himself unlucky not to have scored a try during the feeding fest.
3. Paddy Ryan (Waratahs)
Paddy Ryan had a slightly bigger influence on his team’s surprise victory than the impressive role Wiehahn Herbst played during his time on the field for the Sharks. Therefore, the barnstorming Waratahs tighthead claim his spot in the Team of the Week for the second week in a row.
2. Kyle Cooper (Sharks)
Got the starting line-up nod from his coach after making enough noteworthy run-ons and certainly grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He ticked all the boxes; running, passing, offloading. Really impressed with strong scrum work and exemplary line-out throws, just reward being the try he scored early in the second half.
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks)
The Beast is back. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Beast actually run over and through defenders instead of just dropping to the ground. The hiding they got from the Brumbies and ensuing stern words obviously hit the mark to urge this powerful man to pull up his socks. It was awesome to see him carrying the ball with more purpose as well as scrummaging like a machine.
by Jackie Smit