Now that the dust has settled after Round Three of the Rugby Championship, we select the players that stood out over the weekend’s fixtures.
New Zealand’s second half improvement featured heavily in our thoughts, as did the efforts of Argentina in defeat and also the Wallabies after they secured a first Test win of the year.
Let’s see who made the cut…
Rugby Championship: Team of the Week
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand): Scored two tries and was involved in a third in one of his best Tests of the year. Smith remains one of the most skillful players in the world and showed that with an impressive performance against Argentina. Smith was a menace on attack, making two clean line breaks and beating five defenders in the process.
14 Reece Hodge (Australia): The numbers don’t really reflect Hodge’s performance in Australia’s win over South Africa. He was constantly looking for work and made six tackles with only Bernard Foley at inside centre making more among the backs. He didn’t get much chance on attack to show what he is capable of but Hodge looks a promising prospect for the future. Santíago Cordero pushed him close.
13 Samu Kerevi (Australia): The rookie Test centre delivered arguably his best ever performance in a Wallaby jersey proving a handful with ball in hand, gaining an impressive 115 metres from three clean breaks, four defenders beaten and two offloads. Was also unlucky not to score a try when he had a foot in touch while crossing the whitewash and edges out Matías Orlando of Argentina.
12 Bernard Foley (Australia): Played a big role in Australia’s win over South Africa after a fine showing in the unfamiliar inside centre position. Foley gained 50 metres on attack and finished with a valuable 18-point haul thanks to a try, two conversions and three penalties. Also did well in defence with eight tackles.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): Out of form? Not anymore. Savea was back to his brutal best against Argentina on Saturday as his powerful carries and speed caused the Pumas a great deal of problems. 11 runs for 116 metres, five clean breaks and a try for the wing.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): Speaking of form, Barrett continues to set the standard in world rugby as this was another faultless performance that saw him score a try, expertly set up one for Ryan Crotty and kick 12 points before being replaced on 65 minutes.
9 TJ Perenara (New Zealand): Rarely have we seen Aaron Smith being given the hook so early in a match but Steve Hansen opted to inject fresh legs and ideas as Argentina were in the ascendancy. Boy did it work as Perenara was brilliant, setting up three second-half tries in a measured performance at the base. With the Rugby Championship all but secured, maybe the Hurricanes nine could start this week?
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand): Seeing off opposite number Facundo Isa, who had another busy game, Read gets the nod as with the heat on from Argentina he helped lead his All Blacks on that second-half surge. A joint team high of 13 tackles from the captain.
7 Michael Hooper (Australia): Was named the official Man of the Match in Brisbane after impressing at the coalface of the Wallabies’ forward effort in his side’s win over the Springboks. Hooper was, as usual, impressive at the breakdowns but made his biggest impact in defence with his 13 tackles more than any other player in Brisbane.
6 Jerome Kaino (New Zealand): Launched an absolute monster tackle in the first half on his way to a total of eleven in Hamilton, in another performance that proves with Kaino age is just a number. Playing some of his best rugby at 33. Also made ten carries.
5 Guido Petti (Argentina): The young Argentine lock, linked with Toulon last month, really stood out in open play with his ball skills, making three offloads and nine carries as part of Argentina’s high-tempo attack. At the heart of a young core of players who keep improving for los Pumas. Credit to Adam Coleman of the Wallabies after his first Test try.
4 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): Lood de Jager’s injury in Brisbane was a blessing in disguise as Du Toit made a real impact when he came on at the start of the second half. The Stormers second-row impressed with ball in hand, gaining 27 metres from a clean break with one offload and despite his late entry in to the Test finished as the Boks’ top tackler with 11 hits.
3 Charlie Faumuina (New Zealand): Huge impact off the bench from the experienced tighthead, as he added his name to the try scorers list for the All Blacks. Ever-present on attack and pulled his weight with six tackles from the bench.
2 Agustín Creevy (Argentina): Tireless once again at the heart of Argentina’s pack. No one on either side made more carries than Creevy’s 15 as he left everything out on the field before being replaced by Julían Montoya.
1 Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa): Broke Os du Randt’s record as the Boks’ most capped Test front-row and delivered one of his best performances in recent memory for the Boks during their loss in Brisbane. Mtawarira was solid at scrum-time cleaned out the rucks with great intensity, and did his bit in defence with six tackles. Argentina’s Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro also impressed.