Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, Planet Rugby looks at who stole the show in Round 16 of Super Rugby.
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, Planet Rugby looks at the players who stole the show in Round 16 of Super Rugby.
15 Robbie Robinson (Chiefs): The competition for the Chiefs' number fifteen jersey between Robinson and Andrew Horrell has been one to savour. And judging by Robinson's scintillating attacking play against the Highlanders, it looks like Horrell may have to get used to warming the bench a wee bit longer.
14 Nick Cummins (Force): Sparked a spirited second-half fightback with two quickfire tries and was a standout with his aggressive ball carries and bone-jarring tackles. But it wasn't enough for the Western Force's man-of-the-match to save his team from another defeat.
13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes): The inspirational Hurricanes skipper led from the front as the All Black centre bagged a brace to help his team to a surprise and rare win over the Crusaders in Christchurch – their third in 12 visits. The men from the New Zealand capital are now 80 minutes away from potentially sealing what would be a fairytale place in the play-offs.
12 Ryan Crotty (Crusaders): Despite ending the match on the losing side, the nuggety centre continues to impress in the Crusaders midfield. Crotty uses his fast feet to get past weak shoulders, and regularly exploits gaps. It just so happened another eye-catching performance was overshadowed by Conrad Smith's double.
11 Hosea Gear (Highlanders): Followed up his sensational appearance for the All Blacks in Hamilton with another thunderous performance out wide for the Highlanders and picked up a deserved try for his efforts.
10 Aaron Cruden (Chiefs): The All Blacks pivot soldiered on with an ongoing Achilles tendon problem to be the dominant force as the Chiefs dented the Highlanders' play-off hopes. Both sides scored two tries apiece but Cruden's five penalties proved crucial in a fiercely-contested derby.
9 Francois Hougaard (Bulls): The Bulls ran rampant in Pretoria, with Hougaard a constant thorn in the Cheetahs' side for the 60 minutes he was on the field. It's no surprise that when he went off, the Bulls' momentum shifted down a gear. But his presence during the time he was on the pitch was enough to guide the three-time champs to a crucial bonus-point victory.
8 Ben Mowen (Brumbies): A rock at the back of the Brumbies scrum with his simple, but effective style of play. Mowen's career has gone from strength to strength since making the move from Sydney to Canberra, and continued to repay Jake White's faith in him by leading the Aussie conference leaders to another Super Rugby win in Perth.
7 Jack Lam (Hurricanes): Was bracketed leading up to the crucial derby hit-out in Christchurch with a hamstring strain. But once he took to the field, Lam put his injury worries on the back burner as the Hurricane was consistently at the forefront in both attack and defence.
6 Peter Kimlin (Brumbies): The lock cum flank delivered his best performance of the season after he bossed the collisions in Perth, eroding the Force's resistance through powerful runs. It reminded us just why Kimlin was one of the first players White re-signed when he took over as coach.
5 Juandre Kruger (Bulls): Kruger worked overtime in the Bulls engine room – providing clean line-out ball, hitting rucks and making hard yards with ball in hand. However, he also proved to be his own worst enemy as he showed that he's more of a standout on the Super Rugby stage than in the Test arena.
4 Craig Clarke (Chiefs): A tower of strength for the Chiefs, Clarke stood head and shoulders above team-mate Brodie Retallick as one of New Zealand's newest All Black locks was made to look pretty ordinary next to his team-mate. Clarke never gave the southerners an inch after taking all his line-outs (and two off the Highlanders), whilst he finished the game with the highest tackle count.
3 WP Nel (Cheetahs): Hurricanes heavy Ben May had his name pencilled in, but a number of penalties given away at scrum-time cost him a place. Instead, we've opted for the Cheetahs' super sub who we feel made a big impact with his two tries that gave the visitors' scoreline at full-time a bit more respect.
2 Saia Faingaa (Reds): There were a number of influential players for the Reds as the defending champs notched their fourth straight win, but none made more of an impact than the Wallaby hooker who was impressive in an 80-minute effort in his milestone 50th game for Queensland.
1 Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders): Another front-rower celebrating a milestone game (his 100th), but sadly for Crockett it didn't end in the same winnning fashion as Faingaa. But the Crusaders loosehead can still hold his head high following a powerful scrummaging performance that won several penalties for his team, whilst he was also a battering ram when carrying the pigskin.
Compiled by Dave Morris