1. Tony Woodcock
The All Black, on his 100th cap, showed why he is rightly regarded among the world’s top looseheads, with a dominant performance in the scrum against Ben Alexander.
2. Andrew Hore
Not a great week for the tournament’s hookers, as lineouts misfired, scrums were lost against the head, and penalties were conceded. Hore’s work at the breakdown wins him a spot in the team, as he frequently either disrupted, slowed down or turned over Wallaby ball.
3. Jannie Du Plessis
Up against a resurgent Argentine pack, Du Plessis battled hard in the scrum to gain the upper hand once more, and was solid around the fringes of the breakdown.
4. Brodie Retallick
In for the injured Luke Romano, Retallick was reliable in a stuttering Kiwi lineout, and put in a tremendous amount of work in the loose, including twelve tackles.
5. Mariano Galarza
Filling the sizeable boots of Patricio Albacete, Galarza went toe-to-toe with a Bok pack that decimated its counterparts in Soweto last week, with a notable physical effort in defence and at the breakdown.
6. Steven Luatua
Another impressive performance from the young blindside in only his second international start. Had a hand in both tries with some excellent offensive play, and was a nuisance to the Wallabies around the tackle area and at the breakdown.
7. Juan Leguizamon
A real inspirational showing from the openside in an Argentine lineup bereft of several key leaders. Carried tirelessly, frequently breaching the gain line, and was heavily disruptive at the breakdown.
8. Duane Vermeulen
Typically physical performance from Vermeulen against a fired-up Argentine pack. Made a number of telling contributions to the Boks’ largely impressive maul defence, which frequently turned-over ball and halted the Pumas’ attack. Made some heavy tackles, and used his bulk and power to great effect with ball in hand.
9. Martin Landajo
Gave the South African fringe defence plenty to think about with some snipes from the base of the ruck, and flat running lines that invited his team-mates to run off him. His service was slick, and he linked well with both forwards and backs.
10. Tom Taylor
The All Blacks’ fourth-choice stand-off was calm and assured on debut, mixing up attacking play well, and defending competently against a dangerous Australian backline. On this evidence, the Kiwi fly-half factory remains in full flow.
11. James O’Connor
Despite his positioning and failure to trust the defenders inside him letting him down again this week, there are signs that the young Wallaby is regaining confidence and form after an awkward spell in the number ten jersey. Briefly showed his class with a lovely break up the left touchline, bypassing Dagg and Ben Smith.
12. Marcelo Bosch
As well as typifying his side’s aggressive and hard-hitting approach, Bosch added a touch of class to the Pumas’ backline, and was dangerous with ball in hand. He was at the forefront of much of the Pumas’ attacking play, beating a total of five South African defenders, and sneaking over for a well-taken try late in the second half.
13. Conrad Smith
Typically classy showing from the veteran centre, proving once more his worth to the New Zealand squad. Cool in attack, with some tidy link-up play, and quietly effective in defence. Lucky, however, not to be yellow-carded for blatantly rushing up offside when the Wallabies were closing in on the Kiwi line.
14. Ben Smith
Another week passes, another two tries in the black jersey for Ben Smith. Simple rugby, and good handling and spatial awareness from his team-mates provided world rugby’s form winger with two relatively simple finishes.
15. Israel Dagg
A bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the All Black number fifteen. He was outdone by Israel Folau’s devastating right-to-left sidestep, though that in itself is little to be ashamed of, and missed a simpler tackle on O’Connor as he broke down the left-hand-side. In attack, however, Dagg was very dangerous, scything through the Wallably broken-field defence, and providing the assist for Ben Smith’s opening try.
By Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images