With the dust now having settled on Round 7 of Super Rugby, we pick out the standout performers from the weekend.
Several candidates from the Stormers and the Chiefs get the nod after that classic at Newlands late on Saturday.
Let’s see who made the cut.
Team of the Week: Super Rugby, Round 7
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders): Plenty of contenders here, with Kotaro Matsushima let down after his strip led to a Bulls try and hat-trick hero Malcolm Jaer, Damian McKenzie and Aidan Toua all having their moments. But Smith’s class shone through against the Blues, slicing through for this try as well as vitally winning a couple of turnovers in a tight contest, and a game the Highlanders had to win.
14 Toni Pulu (Chiefs): Pulu’s efforts were in vain as the Chiefs fell to a loss at Newlands, but the wingers finished with a double – including the easy part of that try of the year contender – before outpacing Dillyn Leyds to finish in the corner for his second. Pulu was a threat throughout, with three clean breaks. Travis Ismaiel of the Bulls and Henry Speight both miss out.
13 Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies): Competition here from Matt Proctor, Malakai Fekitoa and EW Viljoen for the outside centre berth but Australian supporters will be encouraged to see Kuridrani produce his best game of the year in that rout of the Reds. Such a smooth step around the blitzing Scott Higginbotham for his try, as Kuridrani racked up 11 carries for over 50 metres, beating three defenders.
12 Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes): He looks like an All Black. That is probably the biggest compliment we can pay Laumape, who scored two tries against the Waratahs to take him to seven for the year, tied at the top along with team-mate Vince Aso. Four clean breaks, three offloads, over 70 metres made and also six tackles sum up a fine shift. Credit to André Esterhuizen and Burger Odendaal.
11 James Lowe (Chiefs): Another Chiefs winger, and another top performer on a losing side, but Lowe was mesmeric against the Stormers in attack and especially in his combination with ‘Team of the Week’ regular Damian McKenzie for Pulu’s first try. Finished out wide with the Chiefs chasing the game and finished with 123 metres under his belt, beating five defenders and making four clean breaks. Hurricanes flyer Wes Goosen and the Force’s Alex Newsome miss out.
10 Robert du Preez (Stormers): Assured performance from the Stormers fly-half, who grabbed one of his side’s tries and finished with a 100 percent kicking record too while also making eight tackles in defence. Du Preez has started the year in excellent form and gets the nod this week at fly-half over the Sunwolves’ Yu Tamura, who made a big impact off the bench, and Marty Banks of the Highlanders.
9 Cobus Reinach (Sharks): Tight battle for the scrum-half spot this week between Reinach and Joe Powell of the Brumbies, who continues to impress. But the Springbok gets the nod and rightly so after that incredible solo try against the Jaguares, ripping the ball out of Pablo Matera’s hands and then racing over 70 metres to finish in the corner. Made 12 carries overall.
8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco (Sunwolves): Provided the grunt and thrush off the back of the scrum that the Sunwolves have been looking for this season, as Warren-Vosayaco marked his Super Rugby debut with a try after skinning Adriaan Strauss on the way to a first win of the year for the Japanese franchise. Beat a couple of defenders, made seven tackles and claimed four lineouts. Reed Prinsep and Isi Naisarani miss out.
7 Chris Alcock (Brumbies): Enjoyed his best game for the Canberra outfit so far against the Reds, rounding off the one-way result with the Brumbies final try as Alcock totalled 12 carries, beating three defenders, while also making ten tackles in defence and winning a turnover. Chris Cloete was excellent again for the Kings, while Tomás Lezana tackled well for the Jaguares.
6 Siya Kolisi (Stormers): Truly outstanding for his side and has relished the role as Stormers captain this season, barging his way over from short-range for the Stormers’ second try and leading from the front throughout. Kolisi made seven carries but it was his work in defence, with 15 tackles and three turnovers, that really stood out. Edges out the Highlanders’ Elliot Dixon and the Chiefs’ Liam Messam.
5 RG Snyman (Bulls): Delivered a busy shift in a losing cause against the Sunwolves in Tokyo. Snyman was his side’s go-to-man in the lineouts, winning six balls but also did his bit as a ball carrier with nine runs, beating two defenders with four offloads. Defended well and beats out Chris van Zyl who also caught the eye for the Stormers.
4 Mark Abbott (Hurricanes): Plenty of nominees for this position but Abbott gets the nod after a good all-round effort against the Waratahs. Made 19 carries and was rewarded with a try for his efforts but also did well in defence with seven hits. Alex Ainley of the Highlanders, Stormers enforcer Eben Etzebeth and the Force’s Matt Philip also impressed.
3 Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies): Was one of the standout performers in the Brumbies pack in a dominant display against the Reds. Alaala impressed with ball in hand, gaining 20 metres from five carries with one clean break, one defender beaten and delivered the final pass in the build-up to Aidan Toua’s try. Alaalatoa edges out Blues hardman Charlie Faumuina and Justin Forwood of the Kings.
2 Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers): The Springbok was at the forefront of the Stormers battle during an epic battle with the Chiefs in Cape Town. Mbonambi was especially strong in defence with 13 tackles and cleaned out the rucks and mauls with great intent. Tolu Latu of the Waratahs also did well.
1 Kane Hames (Chiefs): Another player who caught the eye with an impressive shift in Cape Town, Hames stood up well to the Stormers’ physical onslaught especially in defence where he made 13 tackles. Was also solid in his core duties an won a crucial turnover. Comes in ahead of Scott Sio of the Brumbies.