Super Rugby: Team of the Week

Date published: June 15 2015

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Now that the dust has settled after Round 18 of Super Rugby, we select the players that stood out over the weekend.

There was plenty to play for in the final round of the regular-season as most teams battled it out for the best possible finish while others were eyeing a home tie in the Finals Series.

We've picked out our fifteen from the weekend which includes a New Zealand-heavy backline and a hooker who said goodbye to the Sharks in perfect style.

Super Rugby Team of the Week: Round 18

15 Ben Smith (Highlanders): Another classy performance from the Highlanders captain as he rounded off his side's thrashing of the Blues, scoring their seventh and final try. 11 runs from the All Black for 70 metres saw him go past five defenders and act as a constant threat.

14 Bryce Heem (Chiefs): Few have frustrated 'Canes wing Julian Savea as much as Heem did on Saturday as the Chiefs finisher was a rock in defence. He also crossed for a try amongst his seven carries as this former All Blacks Sevens star continues to impress in Super Rugby.

13 Marcel Brache (Force): The Force midfielder has hardly been an outstanding player this year but it was his intercept that led to his team's winning try against the Rebels. As influential moments in their season go, it ranks near the top. Ultimately, it was the Force's defence that won them the game and Brache put in 14 hits. A mention too for Richard Buckman who did a great job for the Highlanders in the absence of Malakai Fekitoa.

12 Rey Lee-Lo (Hurricanes): This was a tough call on Highlanders hard man Shaun Treeby, who impressed against the Blues with one try and an assist. But, like the Hurricanes, Lee-Lo has improved this term and ran well against the Chiefs, filling in admirably for Ma'a Nonu.

11 Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders): Arguably the best back in Super Rugby this season, teams must be thankful that Nadolo and the Crusaders aren't in the play-offs given the way he's playing. Two stunning tries in Canberra, the second coming from an unbelievable grubber and chase, rubber-stamped his top form as he moved to nine tries in 2015.

10 James Marshall (Hurricanes):: Beauden Barrett was able to watch on from the sideline safe in the knowledge that Marshall was doing a brilliant job in his jersey. He scored a try, set up one, kicked 11 points and was intelligent with his decisions to help the 'Canes to another victory.

Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs): On a memorable night for the Cheetahs, who claimed their first-ever Super Rugby win at Loftus, Pretorius was a key part of the Free Staters ambitious, high-speed approach, scoring a try and setting up two more.

8 Dan Pryor (Highlanders): Excellent again in the absence of Nasi Manu. The Northland back-row, who played once for the Blues in 2012, is more than proving he is of Super Rugby quality at the Highlanders with an all-action performance that saw him cross and make 14 hits.

7 Matt Hodgson (Force): 2015 hasn't been kind to the Force but having Hodgson back in the fold always makes them a better side. Hodgson finished with an eye-watering 28 tackles as the Force picked up only their third win of the year against the Rebels, but they'll hope there are better things to come after finishing with a victory.

6 Boom Prinsloo (Cheetahs): What an influential player for the Cheetahs this season. For once he didn't score a try from the back of a maul but Prinsloo was all over the park in Pretoria. He was also the Cheetahs' main target at line-out time. Kudos must also go to Brad Shields, who was a workhorse for the Hurricanes, making 13 carries.

5 Joe Latta (Highlanders): The 23-year-old was excellent in his first start for the Highlanders on Friday as their lock stocks, despite being depleted, show little signs of weakening. Seven carries to go with a try in a strong combination with Alex Ainley. Decent debut.

4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs): The 2014 Player of the Year was a standout performer for the Chiefs despite their loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday. His presence will certainly be welcome during the play-off match with the Highlanders, after winning seven line-outs, nine tackles and making four turnovers.

3 Sekope Kepu (Waratahs): The Wallaby delivered a fine all-round performance in the Australian Conference winners' triumph over the Reds in Sydney. Kepu was solid in the scrums, made his presence felt when cleaning out the rucks but it was in defence that he made his biggest impact with 13 tackles. Beats out All Black Ben Franks who impressed for the Hurricanes.

2 Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks): A winning farewell for the Sharks stalwart, who scored a try out on the wing. Solid as ever at scrum time and accurate with his line-out throwing, there is no better hooker in the world when Du Plessis is at his best.

1 Chris Heiberg (Force): The Force prop might have been denied a try by the television match official, but with 11 carries and 16 tackles this was a top shift from the 30-year-old from Cape Town, as his side ground down the Rebels on their own turf in Melbourne.

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