Scrolling through the statistics from Opta, we pick out the standout players from Round 4 of Super Rugby 2017.
Top tackler – Irné Herbst (Kings)
Saturday’s game with the Sharks may have ended in a defeat for the Kings but they came close to pulling off a major upset, and at the heart of that was the defensive effort of second-row Herbst.
For those unfamiliar with the 23-year-old, Herbst is a former South Africa U20 international who played three Currie Cup games for the Blue Bulls last year before moving to Port Elizabeth. He made 21 tackles in Durban.
Top carrier, most metres and most clean breaks – Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Another player on the losing side but Highlanders supporters will have been over the moon to see Smith back in action after he missed two and a half games with concussion. The All Blacks star returned in the heavy away defeat to the Hurricanes and made an impressive 18 carries, pipping his New Zealand team-mate Ardie Savea by one.
On top of that no one made more ground with the ball in hand last weekend than the 30-year-old Smith, who recently re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union after speculation linking him with a move overseas.
Smith made 154 metres in Wellington, comfortably more than any other player in Round 4, and he also topped the category for the most clean breaks, completing a dominant round for the All Blacks with six breaks through the defensive line.
Top points scorer and top try scorer – Courtnall Skosan (Lions)
Usually a spot dominated by goalkickers, this week the accolade for top points scorer goes to Lions wing Courtnall Skosan after his four tries against the Reds on Saturday, taking him to a total of 20 points.
Skosan has been prolific now for some time in Super Rugby with the Lions, and at a time when the Springboks are looking for fresh talent out wide, having capped Jamba Ulengo against Wales and given Sergeal Petersen a run against the Barbarians, perhaps Skosan’s time will come against France in June.
Most defenders beaten – André Esterhuizen (Sharks)
Sneaking into top spot this weekend ahead of Andries Coetzee of the Lions and Bautista Ezcurra of the Jaguares, who both finished on eight, is the Sharks heavyweight centre, who beat an impressive nine defenders for the Sharks in their narrow in over the Kings. Known for his hard-hitting carries and defence, the fact that Esterhuizen ghosted past that many tacklers is highly impressive.
Top lineout performer – Stephan Lewies (Sharks)
Another South African and another Shark on this year’s list as Lewies take the spot for the best lineout operator, taking first place ahead of contenders in Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) and Willie Britz (Sunwolves). Lewies won eight throws on the Sharks’ ball against the Kings and also made a steal, making him far and away this week’s king of the lineout.
Most turnovers – Scott Fardy (Brumbies)
Fardy returned to the Brumbies’ starting line-up away to the Waratahs, having been dropped the week before, and the future Leinster recruit produced a typical workmanlike performance in the Brumbies’ pack.
But as well as doing his part in the Brumbies defence and at the lineout it was around the breakdown where Fardy stood out, making four turnovers.
Make sure to keep these players in mind when picking your XV ahead of the next round of our Super Rugby Fantasy game with SuperBru.