Wins for the Crusaders, Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes, the latter over conference rivals the Blues, provided rugby fans, for the most part, with a better standard of rugby to enjoy this week. Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has rolled through the games for a second time, downing copious amounts of coffee and Tim-tams on along the way, to produce his New Zealand Form Team of the Week for Round 13 of Super Rugby:
1 Atu Moli (Chiefs) is steadily getting better and better after his return from yet another injury layoff. His third start in a row was his best, as we saw a little bit of ball-in-hand play that we were yet to see from his in this competition and he continued to scrum, cleanout and lineout lift to a good level
2 Liam Coltman (Highlanders) continued his rich vein of form with another excellent outing while Codie Taylor (Crusaders) was just as industrious and accurate against the Bulls
3 Coach Leon MacDonald needs to consider running Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues) for the majority of the game, just as the Chiefs have had to do with some of their props. Tuungafasi’s work rate in all areas was excellent Friday night, while he was solid in his set piece work.
4 Scott Barrett (Crusaders) produced more quality rugby in the tight exchanges against sizeable opposition at Loftus Versfeld. He was credited with five turnovers, but watching the game over, I personally think two of those are harsh, while one other was excusable
5 Really like the work-rate and intent of Isaia Walker-Leaware (Hurricanes) on Friday night. He didn’t miss a tackle all night, snaffled a turnover and while he didn’t carry a lot, he was heavily involved at the breakdown. The impact of a returning Scott Scrafton (Blues) was very noticeable as well.
6 A solid group of blindside performances in which all players were industrious and physical though no true standout for mine. I’ll give Dalton Papali'i (Blues) the nod but without a whole lot of conviction.
7 The awareness with which Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) is playing rugby is a sight to behold. He wasn’t’ running around Eden Park, he was prowling! – Forward of the Week … again. PS – shout out to Hurricanes coach John Plumtree for the clever way he’s utilising Savea’s prodigious talents as an openside flanker AND number eight
8 Kieran Read (Crusaders) set the tone early in Pretoria and kept that standard rolling through to the end of another excellent eighty minute performance. Luke Jacobson (Chiefs) was a weapon in stopping those massive Sharks forwards (18 tackles, 2 turnovers)
9 TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) influence in the all NZ clash was undeniable. He played in his typically hardnosed way but it was his leadership and control of the contest was quite mesmerising at times – Referee of the Week
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders) leads what was, by far, the best collection of performances we’ve seen by NZ first five in the same round. Working with quick go forward ball, Mo’unga made Loftus Versfeld his personal playground as he manipulated and directed the Crusaders in quite glorious fashion – Back of the Week. In addition to Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) delivered strong defence as well as his normal attacking prowess; Josh Ioane’s (Highlanders) first year development continues, albeit at a slow rate, to trend upwards in a Mo’unga like fashion & Marty McKenzie (Chiefs) drove a simple, yet effective game against the Sharks
11 George Bridge (Crusaders) continues to build a strong case for inclusion in the All Blacks squad. He got plenty of touches against the Bulls and made positive gains with the vast majority of them.
12 Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) is doing everything for his side at the moment and everything he is doing is to a very, very high standard; the form midfield back in New Zealand at the moment
13 A complete performance from Jack Goodhue (Crusaders); sharp, incisive and complimentary on attack, accurate and hard hitting in defence whilst snaffling two turnovers as well
14 It wasn’t Sevu Reece’s (Crusaders) most explosive performance, but it was his most efficient as he continues to grow on a weekly basis with well-earned regular playing time
15 Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes) stood out with his defence first and that’s a great sign especially given positional play at fullback was something the All Blacks coaching group wanted him to work on. Yes he dropped a couple of high balls, but he was in the right position in the first instance. Excellent on attack to go with his defending; possibly his most complete performance at Super Rugby level
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB