Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: August 11 2015

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It is time for our weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

They're on fire!

Australia: The selection of both Michael Hooper and David Pocock in his back row paid off for Michael Cheika as the Wallabies stunned the All Blacks 27-19 to claim the Rugby Championship trophy. Alongside Scott Fardy, Australia's forward effort caused New Zealand so many problems at the ruck as they picked up a first win over their trans-Tasman rivals since 2011. It's hard to measure how much confidence this will give them.

Argentina: Did anything go wrong for los Pumas in Durban on Saturday? Their scrum was outstanding thanks to Marcos Ayerza, Agustín Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Juan Martín Hernández and Marcelo Bosch were intelligent with ball in hand and via the boot while a wing to be mentioned later crossed for a hat-trick as they won 37-25 against South Africa. To top it all they looked good doing it in their special commemorative jersey.

Fiji: A warning shot was fired to Pool A rivals Australia, England and Wales as Fiji impressed in the Pacific Nations Cup, culminating in their 39-29 victory over Samoa in the final on Monday of last week. Second row Leone Nakawara was the star of the show with two tries while scrum-half Nikola Matawalu also stood out. If they can produce this kind of scintillating, high-paced form over the coming months they will cause a shock. Even better, they did all that without Crusaders star Nemani Nadolo!

Keith Earls and Simon Zebo: For the former there was a try-scoring return after more than two years out of international rugby. Earls was rusty at times but should have nailed down a Rugby World Cup spot. Zebo will have done the same after scoring one try and being everywhere after coming on.

Nic White and Matt Toomua: Surely Wallaby head coach Michael Cheika has found his half-back combination for the upcoming Rugby World Cup? The Brumbies duo came off the bench and instantly transformed the Australian attack, initially with Toomua and makeshift half-back partner Matt Giteau, then with the sniping scrum-half White for the last quarter. With these two pulling the strings in back play, Australia look a different proposition.

Seabelo Senatla, JC Roos, Francois Hougaard and Kwagga Smith: The stars of the first week of the Currie Cup as Senatla crossed twice in Western Province's win against Griquas, Roos was assured with the boot for the Pumas in their win over the Sharks, Hougaard scored a brace for the Blue Bulls and finally Smith grabbed a hat-trick for the Golden Lions as they kicked off the season with a demolition of the Eastern Province Kings.

Juan Imhoff: What a finisher. A treble against the Boks meant he ended the Rugby Championship joint top of the try list with Adam Ashley-Cooper and became the first player to ever score a hat-trick against the Springboks.


Broken Thermostat

Dan Carter: Not the best day for the All Black fly-half as while he hit the 1,500 point mark in Test rugby, it came in defeat to the Wallabies. It was a disappointing shift from Carter as he failed to make ten metres twice on his restarts in what was an under-par effort by his standards.

Romain Poite: A mixed outing in Durban for the Frenchman, who is not the most popular referee amongst Springbok supporters and will have won no South African friends on Saturday when he stopped the action because there were two balls on the field, but allowed play to continue with four medics still on the pitch, when Argentina scored.


Someone fetch these guys a warm cuppa soup!

Nick Phipps: Extremely lucky not to be on the losing side on Saturday as the scrum-half threw a couple of wild passes, picked up a dumb yellow card and struggled to combine with Bernard Foley. Australia's performance improved drastically once Nic White and Matt Toomua were introduced.

Handré Pollard: Heyneke Meyer has anointed him as South Africa's starting fly-half, but Pollard is struggling in his second year of Test rugby. This was far and away his worst display in a Springbok jersey, between the fluffed restarts, missing touch with a penalty and generally failing to dictate play, to the point that he was being booed by his own fans. The potential is there, but surely Pat Lambie needs a run-out next week.

Bok midfield: Jean de Villiers looked well off the pace on his return to the Test arena and didn't gel with Stormers team-mate Damian de Allende against los Pumas in Durban. The De Allende-De Villiers partnership wasn't a patch on the De Allende-Jesse Kriel combination who did so well for the Boks against the All Blacks and Wallabies.

England's axed seven: The news every English squad player was looking to avoid on Friday evening. Stuart Lancaster trimmed his training squad down to 39 players ahead of upcoming Tests and the World Cup. The players going back to their respective clubs were Chris Ashton, Lee Dickson, Kyle Eastmond, Matt Kvesic, Matt Mullan, Semesa Rokoduguni and Marland Yarde. No doubt they will keep their phones on should injuries occur.

James Hook and Scott Williams: Wales were abysmal on Saturday, and crazy as it sounds, could that be James Hook's last cap? He really struggled at ten and will do very well to make the World Cup. Scott Williams was the only likely starter involved, but even he had a horror show in his first game as captain. Barring one try-saving tackle, things couldn't have gone much worse for the inside centre against Ireland on Saturday.

Canada: Another narrow loss to round off a winless Pacific Nations Cup. There was a sense of inevitability in their defeat to the USA, leading going into the final seconds only to cough up the ball and concede a late drop goal. At least lock Jamie Cudmore will be fit for the World Cup.

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