15. Hennie Daniller (Cheetahs)
There is an abundance of exceptional attacking fullbacks at the moment; Tom Marshall covering for Israel Dagg, Ben Smith playing his heart out for the Highlanders and Israel Folau electrifying the wayward Waratahs. However, all these players featured in losing teams this weekend, a fact that underlined the value of a truly dependable man at the back. With the amount of flash already in the Cheetahs team, you need someone that can keep a cool head under pressure.
14. Jason Woodward (Rebels)
Brought some creative brilliance to the table that undoubtedly made the difference in the end. His dynamic performance is probably the main reason the Rebels won this one in spite of my prediction. There might yet be some life in the Melbourne side.
13. René Ranger (Blues)
Why did it take so long to move this guy to the midfield? The All Black management wil be having selection nightmares ahead of the mid-year tests, with Ranger obviously being the most explosive outside centre in the competition, whilst Conrad Smith is as dangerous and dependable as ever.
12. Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs)
Since somewhat controversially opting for Ebersohn ahead of Frans Steyn in Round 3, the Cheetahs midfielder seems to have staked his claim on this spot the last couple of weeks. There’s been a lot of talk about his small stature, but this Blitzbok is hammering on the Springboks door. He still slips a few tackles, but overall his defense has improved a lot, an area the entire team has really worked on.
11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes)
It was nice to see Savea spending more time on the wing where he belongs, and he reaped the benefits, dotting down twice for the Hurricanes. He is extremely quick out of the blocks, and with his incredible power, you just know that he’ll demolish anyone that comes in his way. One of the best hand-offs around.
10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
Might not be scoring the tries, but he’s creating them aplenty. Barrett had a good day with the boot and on defense, two areas which have been rather see-saw-like this season. He has also been carrying the ball into contact with more confidence lately, enabling his teammates to play off him quite nicely.
9. Piri Weepu (Blues)
Had a gut feeling that Weepu would announce his comeback this week, and he did not disappoint. The halfback took a giant leap in form to show just how vivacious he still can be. Not only did he attack the line with a lot more purpose, he played an outstanding supporting role the entire match. For the Highlanders, I’d like to see more of Fumiaki Tanaka, who impressed from the minute he took to the field and might just be what’s needed for the Landers to win a game.
8. Cornell du Preez (Kings)
Experienced no difficulties in switching from the side of the scrum to the back. I thought that resting Jacques Engelbrecht was a mistake, but obviously I was wrong. Du Preez effortlessly continued at the same prolific work rate we’ve become accustomed to see from Engelbrecht. There is no lack of hugely talented backrowers in South Africa. For all his hard work on both offense and defense, du Preez got rewarded with a brace of tries, including the equaliser after the hooter had gone.
7. Wimpie van der Walt (Kings)
There was some joking about the English pronunciation of his name, but this unknown East Coast flanker showed that he is anything but a wimp. He’s been putting in strong performances since his first Super Rugby match, carrying the ball efficiently and making nearly twenty tackles per match, without missing many. On top of that, he is one of the most disciplined players in the tournament. Ardie Savea also impressed in his first run for the Hurricanes.
6. Steven Luatua (Blues)
The Blues blindsider has been competing for placement in the Team of the Week for a while now and by simply being consistently good, he has earned his spot this week as well as a try in the corner.
5. Andries Bekker (Stormers)
Celebrated his 100th match in style – bar the loss, of course. He stole the first Cheetahs line-out which seemed to surprise them so much, they lost a few more in succession. Bekker recovered well from his quiet game against the Crusaders, hitting the line so hard that it required a coupe of defenders to bring him down. His decision to move to Japan at the end of the season is a huge blow for South African rugby.
4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks)
With a couple of the South African locks opting to further their careers abroad, it is a relief to see that the young talent is right up there competing with the veterans. Not for the first time this season, the Sharks youngster has shown that he has what it takes to become one of the best. The boy is incredibly strong on his feet and very mobile for his height. A Springbok cap can’t be far off. Rebels’ Hugh Pyle was also good.
3. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs)
Naka Drotské is managing the return and transformation of this versatile prop extremely well. By allowing him a bit more time on the field each week, the barnstorming front rower is making an increasing impact every time he vacates the bench.
2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
It was a weekend during which the hookers ran amok; scoring and creating tries, breaking lines and displaying some ball-in-hand skills that would make SBW proud. Very little separated the performances by Motu Matu’u, Kyle Cooper, Deon Fourie and Strauss. In the end, it was the outstanding leadership of the Cheetahs captain that swung my vote.
1.Trevor Nyakane (Cheetahs)
Not the biggest loosehead on the park, but he is growing in confidence. Really put his Stormers opponent under pressure and played a vital role in the heel against the head when time had run out. Which of course took play into the Stormers half and ended in the penalty that broke the shackles for the Cheetahs. Not to mention his Beast-like strength when lifting his jumpers at kick-off time.
by Jackie Smit