The Rugby Championship Team of the Week: Round 3

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1. Tendai Mtawarira
The man they call “The Beast” played a key role in the Boks’ near-total dominance at the scrum, and showed up well in the loose, defending solidly around the fringes of the breakdown.

2. Bismarck Du Plessis
At the breakdown, Du Plessis almost acts as an extra back row for South Africa. On Saturday, he put in a typically abrasive and physical performance, and had a hand in a number of turnovers and penalties won by his side. At the lineout, too, the hooker’s throwing was sound.

3. Juan Figallo
Figallo’s scrummaging was hugely impressive, particularly up against the wily Tony Woodcock, where the Argentine pack got the better of their illustrious opponents on a number of occasions. Latterly, he stood up replacement Wyatt Crockett before being replaced around the hour mark.

4. Brodie Retallick and 5. Sam Whitelock
For the third consecutive week, Retallick and Whitelock got through a tremendous amount of work, both carrying consistently well, and again posting high tackle counts. Though aided by poor throwing, they disrupted the Pumas’ lineout very effectively, with their aerial presence preventing the visitors from gaining clean, first-phase ball on numerous occasions.

6. Steven Luatua
With the All Blacks once again on the front foot, Luatua was able to range far and wide, running more metres with ball in hand than any of his team-mates. His impressive attacking skill set was on show again, with powerful running combining with soft hands to give his side plenty of go-forward. The real test of his effectiveness against a pack that can match his own will come with next week’s visit of the Springboks.

7. Francois Louw
Huge performance from the Bath openside, who was titanic at the breakdown, winning a number of turnovers and penalties for his side. With Richie McCaw sidelined for next week’s fixture, the All Blacks’ back row will have to be at their best to nullify Louw’s disruptive and ball-stealing presence.

8. Kieran Read
Read took over the captaincy following McCaw’s injury, and the Crusaders’ number eight led from the front, taking responsibility for much of the carrying duties in the face of some very physical Argentine defence. Provided arguably the moment of the match, with a lovely behind-the-back offload to send Aaron Smith over for his first try.

9. Aaron Smith
Another energetic performance from Smith, whose service remained slick despite the poor weather conditions in Hamilton. He grabbed himself two tries, and kept the Argentine defence on their toes with some sniping darts.

10. Dan Carter
Carter’s return to international duty saw him turn in a typically controlling and assertive display. In attack, he broke the Argentine line several times, and beat more defenders than any other player. The only real blot on his copybook being an uncharacteristic miss from the tee.

11. Julian Savea
In poor conditions, Savea again struggled to make the kind of telling impact on the game that he is so very capable of. He was usually safe under the high ball, and dotted down for a simple try to kill the game off.

12. Jean De Villiers
The Springbok captain thrived off poor Wallaby attack in Brisbane, and was able to police the midfield very effectively. Contributed well to some excellent attacking play in the second half, and finished off a fine try to mark the beginning of the end for the home side.

13. Conrad Smith
Smith remains firmly among the All Blacks’ most prized assets, and Saturday’s outing showed in patches the rugby intelligence for which he is so renowned. His quick thinking in defence shut down potential Argentine overlaps, and his handling was as deft as ever in midfield.

14. Willie Le Roux
Shifted to the wing this week, Le Roux had little chance to shine in the first half barring one near miss in the corner, as the Boks’ pack strangled the life out of their Australian counterparts. Once the game was won, and the visitors’ were able to open up more, his attacking skills came to fore in emphatic style, as he provided a lovely assist for Zane Kirchner’s try, then scorched past several would-be tacklers to claim five points for himself.

15. Zane Kirchner
Leinster’s marquee summer signing returned to the international stage on Saturday, and performed solidly if unspectacularly in the Boks’ emphatic victory. He may never provide the dazzling offensive threat of counterparts Le Roux, Israel Dagg and Israel Folau, but he did exactly what was asked of him this weekend, and was rewarded with a try.

By Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images