Now that the dust has settled after Round One of Super Rugby, we select the players that stood out over the weekend.
The Brumbies’ big win over the Hurricanes and the Stormers putting the Bulls to the sword played a part in our selection, while the Sharks and Rebels are also well represented after their victories over the Kings and Force respectively.
Super Rugby Team of the Week, Round 1
15 Reece Hodge (Rebels): Made a dream debut in his side’s win over the Force in Perth. Hodge, who was originally picked on the wing, was shifted to full-back shortly before kick-off and almost everything he tried came off. Finished with a 20-point haul which included two tries and edges out the Chiefs’ Damian McKenzie.
14 Melani Nanai (Blues): Was one of the standout performers in his side’s memorable win over the Highlanders, gaining 59 metres on attack with one clean break, two defenders beaten and an offload. Nanai also scored one of his side’s tries and comes into our side ahead of Jaguares flyer Santiago Cordero.
13 Tamati Ellison (Rebels): The former All Black dominated his midfield battle with the Western Force’s Ben Tapuai, and set up both Hodge’s tries after two powerful line breaks. Ellison made all his tackles and is preferred to the Brumbies’ Tevita Kuridrani.
12 Paul Jordaan (Sharks): The former Springbok U20 back was one of the Sharks’ star players in their one-side victory over Kings in Port Elizabeth. Jordaan always looked dangerous on attack, making 57 metres, with two clean breaks, two defenders beaten and also scored a try. Edges out the Brumbies’ Christian Lealiifano.
11 Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks): Was a constant threat on attack in his side’s victory over the Kings and crossed the whitewash for a deserved try. Mvovo gained 78 metres with ball in hand, with four clean breaks and three defenders beaten.
10 Robert Du Preez (Stormers): There was lots of pressure on the rookie pivot ahead of his side’s clash with the Bulls but he came through his test with flying colours. Du Preez finished with a 23-point haul which included a try, three conversions and four penalties and beats out Nicolas Sanchez of the Jaguares and the Crusaders’ Richie Mo’unga.
9 Nick Phipps (Waratahs): The Wallabies number nine has hit the ground running with another fine showing in the ‘Tahs’ one-sided triumph over the Reds in Sydney. Phipps gets the nod for his slick service and sniping runs, and he snuck over for a try in the second-half. He beats out the Brumbies’ Tomas Cubelli who impressed in their win over the Hurricanes.
8 Daniel du Preez (Sharks): Was a threat on attack with several devastating runs which kept the Kings’ defenders busy. Du Preez gained 56 metres with ball in hand, and made one clean break, beat three defenders and also registered an offload. Former All Black back-row Adam Thomson also shone for the Rebels.
7 Blake Gibson (Blues): Made a big impact as a ball carrier against the Highlanders and scored a memorable try after running over All Black full-back Ben Smith. Gibson gained 41 metres with two clean breaks, beating four defenders in the process but also did his bit on defence with 10 tackles. Waratahs tearaway Michael Hooper also did well.
6 Scott Fardy (Brumbies): One of the Brumbies and Wallabies best players in 2015, Fardy has continued where he left off last year with a fine all-round effort against the Hurricanes. Scored a try for his efforts and beats out the Chiefs’ Taleni Seu who shone on debut.
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers): With six line-out takes, the former Sharks lock was outstanding on his debut for the Stormers. He did a good job of disrupting the usually-strong Bulls set-piece too as he and second-row partner Eben Etzebeth gave their team vital momentum in what was always going to be a very physical derby.
4 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers): This lock combination has long been talked about as the future of SA rugby, but circumstances have dictated that they have rarely played together. On Saturday’s evidence, they could form a partnership to rival the legendary Matfield-Botha combo of yesteryear. Stormers coach Robbie Fleck labelled Etzebeth’s contribution as “exceptional” on a big day for their tight-five.
3 Maks van Dyk (Cheetahs): Delivered a superb effort in the scrums against the highly-rated Jaguares and actually dominated the set-piece on several occasions. Also shone at his core duties and cleaned out the rucks with great intent.
2 Stephen Moore (Brumbies): The Wallabies’ captain played in his 150th match for the Canberra-based franchise and rounded off a superb performance with a try before being replaced on the hour-mark. Moore gained 38 metres on attack including two clean breaks. A mention for Jaguares hooker Agustín Creevy.
1 Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies): Another prop who caught the eye after a strong scrummaging effort. Alaalatoa’s power proved too much for the Hurricanes and his dominance at the set-piece allowed his more flashier team-mates to receive the plaudits.