15. Charles Piutua (Blues)
It’s been a while since the Blues fullback outshone all others in his position. The Blues have recovered well from their short-lived loss of form, Piutua being the man of the moment as he hit the line at pace and when he didn’t break it himself, expertly offloaded to the another playmaker.
14. Henry Speight (Brumbies)
After a couple of mentions, the in-form winger earns his first jumper of the season. He made an epic hand-off on Hosea Gear to strike in the corner with only a handful of minutes on the clock; definitely the most dangerous man on the park in Friday’s sole fixture. Hard luck for Frank Halai of the Blues and Patrick Osborne of the Chiefs.
13. Richard Kahui (Chiefs)
With only two starts to his name yet, Kahui is setting the pace with his incredible work rate, always carrying the ball with purpose and looking for support. He might have played in a losing team, but it was a winning performance. Some might feel that Juan de Jongh deserved this week’s honours, but I felt his match winning try was on account of Jean de Villiers more than anything else.
12. Andries Strauss (Kings)
It is easy to lose sight of the guy that puts his body on the line with so many running midfielders showcasing their skills with ball in hand. Bundee Aki, Jackson Willison, Jean de Villiers and quite a few others straightened the line beautifully to create space and opportunities, but the man that meant the most for his team was Strauss; without his relentless defense and inspiring leadership, the Kings could’ve easily been dethroned.
11. Rod Davies (Reds)
Had very few opportunities against the Highlanders the previous week, but made full use of his starting berth against the Chiefs. He was instrumental in the Reds’ victory over the defending champions, scoring two tries as he threatened the Chiefs line on numerous occasions. René Ranger deserves a mention for his performance as Blues winger, but I like him more at thirteen.
10. Quade Cooper (Reds)
Nothing motivates a man more than being dropped from the team. The fact that Dingo Deans has omitted Cooper from the Wallaby training squad has seen the Reds pivot lift his game to another level. One can almost sense the reappearance of the old Quade with his dancing feet. He successfully fulfilled his primary roles as a fly-half and kept the Chiefs guessing with ball in hand, pulling the wool over Aaron Cruden’s eyes to slip past him for a try. Hats off to Demetri Catrakilis, cool-headed under pressure to secure a second confidence building result for the Kings.
9. Shaun Venter (Kings)
Week after week the selection of the half-backs was a no-brainer; however, it’s one of the most keenly contested jumpers in Round 9. The usual contenders, Will Genia and Piri Weepu, had a great day at the office; whilst Jano Vermaak and Cobus Reinach have earned themselves invitations to the Springbok camp. Even though the aforementioned players all performed admirably, the man that made the biggest impact and impressed me most was Venter. He played with good vision and had the defense properly confused when he slipped away to score a brilliant individual try.
8. Richard Brown (Force)
Brown has been delivering strong performances all season, this exceptional effort against the Crusaders being his best. He made life really difficult for the Saders loose trio and outshone them in every aspect of the game. Not only was he a real force on the charge, but his rock solid defense was key to his team’s surprise victory. In the absence of Scott Higginbotham, Reds eightman Jake Schatz is also doing an outstanding job, reward being another well worked try.
7. George Smith (Brumbies)
I realise that quite a few people would’ve opted for Liam Gill as a result of his extraordinary feat against a very proficient backrow, but he was outranked by pure class. Smith’s experience, skill and vision all came together in one moment when he not only prevented himself from getting isolated at the back of the maul, but by acting quickly turned the situation into a five pointer.
6. Steven Luatua (Blues)
At the moment it seems you’ll need a bomb to remove this guy from the team of the week. The lock-turned-loose-forward brings so much to the game. He is gifted in all areas; he is persistent with ball in hand and firm in defense. TJ Perenara splendidly prevented him from scoring a try, but he returned the impediment with his own try-saving tackle on Reynold Lee-Lo.
5. James Horwill (Reds)
By no means the flashiest second row in the world, but definitely one of the best. Everything he does is done with absolute commitment and he brings a lot of stability to the Reds pack as well as being a commendable leader. The thing that makes him such a great player is that he is more than willing to do all the dirty work and let the players around him bask in the glory.
4. Luke Romano (Crusaders)
With Sam Whitelock being rested, the pressure was on Romano to call the shots at lineout time. Although his team drew the short straw on the day, he was head and shoulders above the rest in the number four jersey. He burst his way over the line for the Crusaders’ solitary try, but more importantly was denied on two additional occasions as the ball was held up by the spirited Force.
3. Frans Malherbe (Stormers)
The scrum was a much speculated aspect of the Stormers’ game, the suggestion being that they are weaker in that area without Tiaan Liebenberg, but they well and truly dismissed that notion this week. Put against one of the strongest packs in Super Rugby, Malherbe provided a solid platform, forcing the Sharks to back-paddle on numerous occasions, claiming a couple of penalties in the process.
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
This is a position in which just about every Super Rugby team appear to be blessed, but none more so than the Brumbies with Moore in their ranks – arguably the best hooker in Australia, if not the world. A lot of the hard work he does goes unnoticed, but it is his experience and calm that is vital among the forwards. A short head behind him is Adriaan Strauss, by far the best hooker in South Africa – there is no player that gives more of himself.
1.Pek Cowan (Force)
Not named in the initial team announcement, but what a boost they got when his colossal frame ran onto the field. Up against some All Black greats, the Force loose-head showed a lot of guts and determination. He was gigantic in defense and very influential in slowing down the Crusaders’ first phase ball. Also take note of Ben Franks – the way he managed to catch up with Blues winger Frank Halai and drag him down undoubtedly saved a try.
by Jackie Smit