Rugby Championship: XV of the Week

Date published: September 11 2012


Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, PR looks at the players who stole the show in the Rugby Championship.

Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, Planet Rugby looks at the players who stole the show in the Rugby Championship.

15 Israel Dagg (New Zealand): Toughest position to fill considering there were no real standouts in the number 15 jersey. But Dagg gets the nod due to the horrendous weather in Wellington which caused the power cut that plunged the stadium into darkness. Swirling 160km/hr winds and rainy conditions are normally a full-back's nightmare, however Dagg did pretty well under the circumstances.

14 Cory Jane (New Zealand): Didn't get his hands on the pigskin too often in the first half, but came to the party in the second forty for New Zealand and wrapped up the result with a well deserved try. Mention too for Bryan Habana – execution and consistency has been a problem for South Africa, but the same can't be said of the veteran winger who showed he still has an eye for the tryline before limping off with an ankle injury.

13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand): The pick of New Zealand's backs as the Wellington local straightened the All Blacks attack and tried his best to create chances that usually ended in frustration. A classy touch from the returning Smith enabled partner in crime Ma'a Nonu to put Julian Savea over for a crucial five-pointer.

12 Berrick Barnes (Australia): His kicking was questionable in general play, but from the tee he was outstanding and potted six from six thanks to his unerring boot for a personal haul of 16 points. Barnes was no slouch on defence either, and put in the majority of hits in the Wallabies' backline (9).

11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): Try aside, his work rate was miles ahead of what he produced in his last start for New Zealand (against Ireland in Christchurch in June) and may have done enough to secure a start against South Africa on Saturday.

10 Juan Martin Hernandez (Argentina): A defensive rock for the Pumas (just ask Conrad Smith), while his tactical kicking was out of the top drawer – using clever low grubber kicks to turn around the All Blacks back three. Put opposite number Aaron Cruden under constant pressure as the All Blacks playmaker was made to look very ordinary indeed.

9 Will Genia (Australia): Put in a polished and assured performance before he was forced off the field with 11 minutes to go as Australia's captain's curse struck again. Mention too for New Zealand replacement Piri Weepu who added a bit of mongrel around the ruck and allowed the All Blacks to control the game a bit more in the final quarter.

8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina): Argentina were well led once again by their bustling, bristling number eight who is without a doubt the heartbeat of their pack. An inspirational performance, that saw the Pumas skipper lead the way on defence with 15 tackles and was also a handy option at line-out time. Mention too for Wallabies super-sub Scott Higginbotham who broke a 178 minute try-scoring drought when he burst through just two minutes after coming onto the field for Radike Samo in the second half.

7 Michael Hooper (Australia): Australia's out-and-out fetcher translated his Super Rugby form to the Test stage and proved that he belongs at this level after a busy day at the office for the Wallabies. Hooper topped Australia's tackle chart (11 hits), whilst he also put in the hard yards with ball in hand.

6 Marcell Coetzee (South Africa): Robust and resilient, Coetzee has taken to the Test arena like a duck to water. The more comfortable he gets, the more physical attributes he brings to the game as the Bok rookie dominated the collisions and tackled like a demon (also 11 hits). But his impact was sorely missed when strangely subbed by coach Heyneke Meyer. Mention for New Zealand's Liam Messam – another superb super-sub who played an impressive 40 minutes off the bench.

5 Sitaleki Timani (Australia): Awarded the official man-of-the-match gong and rightly so, as the big Tongan-born powerhouse continued his solid run of form for the Wallabies. The 25-year-old has been a revelation this season, and it's no wonder Timani's team-mates believe he is on his way to becoming a world class lock. Mention too for Pumas pair Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza, however a misfiring line-out didn't help their cause.

4 Luke Romano (New Zealand): Topped the line-out count (nine) and, along with Richie McCaw, was the most effective ball carrier. Although he was the best Kiwi forward statistically against Argentina, it was clear he relishes the confrontational aspect of the game at the highest level.

3 Ben Alexander (Australia): Not only did the prop score an inspirational late try to lift Australia to a crucial win, but also quelled the Springboks' power source – their scrum.

2 Adriaan Strauss (South Africa): Another position that left us scratching our heads. In the end, we felt South Africa's stand-in first-choice hooker performed his core duties effectively enough without being spectacular.

1 Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina): Showed there's still plenty of rugby left in his 35-year-old legs after the veteran front-rower powered over for the game's opening try in his 51st Test. Roncero received the hugs and kisses of a champion when he took a seat with half an hour to go.

Compiled by Dave Morris