Now that the dust has settled after Round Four of the Rugby Championship, we select the players that stood out over the weekend’s fixtures.
The All Blacks imperious form in 2016 continued with their win over South Africa, securing the Rugby Championship title with two rounds still to go! Meanwhile the Wallabies made it back-to-back victories after a rapid start helped them to see off Argentina in Perth.
Let’s see who made the cut.
Rugby Championship: Team of the Week
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand): Didn’t see much of the ball early on but when he did, Smith’s ability to go past defenders again was a joy to watch. He scored his third try of this year’s Rugby Championship, as he continues to shine alongside Israel Dagg at the back.
14 Israel Dagg (New Zealand): A little tough on Australia wing Dane Haylett-Petty and to a lesser extent South Africa scorer Bryan Habana, but Dagg oozed confidence again with a try and three clean breaks. A no-look offload to Matt Todd was out of the top drawer.
13 Samu Kerevi (Australia): No real standouts in the 13 jersey this weekend but Kerevi’s first-minute try against Argentina set the Wallabies on their way in Perth. Productive as ever with ball in hand, Kerevi made 65 metres from nine carries.
12 Santiago González Iglesias (Argentina): The hero from a couple of weeks ago against South Africa started at 12 in the absence of Juan Martín Hernández. Despite going off for a concussion test Iglesias returned to the field and finished the game with 14 runs to his name, beating a couple of defenders on the way, whilst making eight tackles.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): Looks sharp at the moment and has grabbed his chance with Waisake Naholo’s injury re-opening the door to him. Scored a try and made eight carries to edge out Wallaby workhorse Reece Hodge, who has impressed in his early Test career.
10 Quade Cooper (Australia): The mercurial playmaker was in superb form in Perth and played a huge part in their win over los Pumas. Cooper set up Dane Haylett-Petty’s try with a delightful inside pass inside the opening 10 minutes and kept the defenders guessing with his vast array of skills for the rest of the match. One of his best Tests in years.
9 Will Genia (Australia): The diminutive number nine combined brilliantly with Cooper and delivered a superb all-round performance. Genia proved a handful to Argentina’s defenders finishing with 45 metres from two clean breaks with two defenders beaten and was rewarded with a brace of tries.
8 Facundo Isa (Argentina): Another brilliant showing from the 22-year-old who played with a maturity beyond his years in his side’s loss to Australia. Isa was a constant threat on attack, gaining 79 metres from 21 runs which included two clean breaks, three defenders beaten, three offloads and a deserved try. Warren Whiteley also caught the eye in a losing Springbok cause.
7 Michael Hooper (Australia): Makes our team for the second successive week after another brilliant performance for the Wallabies. Hooper did his bit with ball in hand, gaining 31 metres from two clean breaks with one defender beaten, and produced a quality assist for Kerevi’s opening score, but it was in defence that he really impressed with 20 tackles made. Beats out Ardie Savea of the All Blacks.
6 Jerome Kaino (New Zealand): The All Blacks veteran left the field through injury early in the second half but by then he had already left his mark on the world champions’ win over the Boks. Kaino gained 38 metres on attack with one clean break and a defender beaten and also made five hits in defence. Argentina’s Pablo Matera also impressed.
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): The versatile forward took his opportunity well after replacing the injured Lood de Jager in the starting XV and was their best forward on the field. Puzzling move to substitute him midway through the second half. He gave an energetic performance in which he led from the front. Made a crucial turnover on South Africa’s line after a New Zealand break which would almost certainly have led to a try and was also solid in his lineout work.
4 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): Still one of the best locks in the business and gave South Africa a hard time at the lineout. His work-rate can never be faulted and his defence is rock solid. Forms an imposing lock partnership with Brodie Retallick and almost never has a bad game. Never backs down from the physical stuff and one of the All Blacks’ try scorers in Christchurch. Javier Ortega Desío went well too.
3 Vincent Koch (South Africa): The tighthead, in and out of the starting XV, arguably had one of his best Test in a Springbok jersey on Saturday. His work-rate on defence was high, he scrummed well and he even managed to make an offload with ball in hand. Koch is highly rated but has struggled for consistency so far in his career. He needs to build on this showing against a strong All Blacks team if he wants to make the number three jersey his own.
2 Dane Coles (New Zealand): His ablilty with ball in hand has been lauded and he seems to be redefining the role of the modern hooker. He is quick and mobile with safe hands and likes to offload which at times makes him look like an extra backline player rather than number two. While he is not the first hooker to possess these skills Coles remains a strong scrummager, something which couldn’t always be said of hooker’s with similar skill-sets in the past. He gave three try-scoring passes against the Springboks to add to his accurate lineout throwing and eight tackles. Credit also to Agustín Creevy.
1 Joe Moody (New Zealand): Was as solid as ever for the All Blacks making six tackles and conceding no penalties at scrum time. Largely held his own against Vincent Koch and forms part of a strong front row for New Zealand who have one of the best scrums around. His work-rate often goes unnoticed, especially at the breakdown, but he remains a rising star in this All Blacks team.