It's time for Planet Rugby's wrap of who has their name in lights right now… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It's time for Planet Rugby's wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
All Blacks: Despite being without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, New Zealand got the job done in La Plata with a performance of champions as Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sam Cane, Conrad Smith and Julian Savea stood out in the 33-15 bonus-point win. After watching the Boks fail to claim five points, New Zealand's feat means they only need a losing bonus from Ellis Park and they will have retained the title. They will want to finish with a flourish though won't they?
Springboks: Yes, they missed out on the critical fourth try against Australia but last week's performance added weight to talk that South Africa are genuine contenders for the World Cup crown in 2015. Their game is of course built on power and lots of it but as plans go, this is arguably the toughest to stop. Adriaan Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis are arguably the world's best hookers right now while their back-row is making life pretty easy for Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn to create wider out. It's all set up for a titanic Rugby Championship finale in Johannesburg this coming weekend. Let battle commence.
Oyonnax: Clermont, check; Biarritz, check; Castres, check; Toulon, check. The Top 14 new-boys are building quite the list of scalps at Stade Charles-Mathon and the most recent is probably the pick of the bunch. Benjamin Urdapilleta was the hero after he secured victory with a drop-goal late on. Congrats.
Stade FranÃ§ais: Leading the way in France, the Parisians are looking pretty hot. At first we thought it was all down to the arrival of new head coach Gonzalo Quesada but soon we realised we were only half right. Indeed, we reckon Mrs Quesada, French TV hostess Isabelle Ithurburu, might be the inspiration to the Parisians' refound from.
Fiji U18: Congratulations to the Fiji schoolboys, who beat their New Zealand U18 counterparts for the first time in their history on Friday. After beating New South Wales Country 74-10 last Tuesday, they won 22-20 against Russell Hilton-Jones' side, who had Warren Gatland's son, Bryn, playing at ten.
Demetri Catrakilis: He was the hero in 2012's Currie Cup final against The Sharks with a drop-goal and Catrakilis was at it again last weekend as he dropped Western Province past the Free State Cheetahs late on in Bloemfontein. His smart effort puts Allister Coetzee's side into the play-offs. Take a bow.
Someone turn up the heater!
Worcester: The only winless side in the Aviva Premiership so far. Big things have been expected with Dean Ryan at the helm but the vibe Worcester are giving off isn't pretty. Ryan described the work needed as “a huge challenge to fix” – hardly positive words from a new boss. It's too early to be counting points, but Irish, Sale and Newcastle have all shown that they are up for a scrap, with the Warriors yet to fire.
Australia: Utterly clueless in the first-half at Newlands, at times the Wallabies were a shambles. Patchy defence, a lack of any real threat going forward and second best by some margin, Ewen McKenzie has serious work to do. Will Genia was a bright spot off the bench but the general expectation is that Argentina will now pick up that elusive first win in Rosario next weekend…
Argentina: …given how the Pumas had New Zealand sweating for large periods of last weekend's match in La Plata. Unable to keep their intensity in defence going in the second-half, Argentina's scrum was destructive throughout. The Wallabies should be worried about Marcos Ayerza and Juan Figallo this week in training.
Jake White: Spotted outside Newlands speaking to the media after South Africa's win, White is back in South Africa to stay after his stunning exit from the Brumbies last weekend. His grievances on losing out on the Australia job have been downplayed as he expressed his desire to coach Western Province – a team already with a coach in Allister Coetzee. White's next move is unclear, but he has made clear his desire to get back into Test rugby. The manner of his departure from the Brumbies though, just a few months after guiding them to the Super Rugby final, has left a sour taste.
Jannie du Plessis: The Springbok tighthead prop is a medical practitioner, but the eye procedure he performed on Stephen Moore was in contravention of the national health and safety actÂ Â – not even to mention the spirit of the game.
Top 14 discipline: 19 cards in Round Eight! Seven yellows in Clermont v Bordeaux-BÃ¨gles – of which the visitors racked up an impressive five, plus four yellows and a red inÂ Grenoble v Brive illustrate an alarming trend in France's top league this season.
Biarritz: 1/8 = relegation beckons. Times are desperate for the former Heineken Cup finalists, who currently sit nine points adrift at the bottom.