Who’s hot and who’s not!

Date published: October 10 2016

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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: Six wins out of six, 30 points out of a possible 30. A perfect Rugby Championship campaign for the reigning world champions, who crowned an excellent couple of months by inflicting a record home Test defeat on South Africa in their own backyard. The Springboks were hideous, but, credit to Steve Hansen’s side for ditching those early errors and then embarrassing their hosts. Supreme.

Samu Kerevi: Two tries for the Reds centre at Twickenham as he repeatedly busted through tackles, showing off his power. It’s been a breakout year for Kerevi and his partnership with Bernard Foley is starting to come along nicely. He is likely to face Anton Lienert-Brown in two weeks…

Saracens: That rolling maul is going to claim many more victims this season at this rate. Keep an eye too on Jamie George, who managed to grab two tries off the bench within six minutes as the champions turned the screw on Wasps to stop the in-form challengers to their crown. A tasty trip to Toulon comes next.

Clermont: Just the one defeat in eight games now for Clermont after they saw off Toulouse at home on Sunday to keep first spot in the Top 14, and that was despite two yellow cards to Fritz Lee and Thomas Domingo. Les Jaunards punished Toulouse through the boot of Morgan Parra, whose hot streak will need to continue away to Exeter next Sunday.

Telusa Veainu: Poor defence? Sure… but check out this try!

Leroy Houston’s debut: It was a long road but Leroy Houston’s 11-year wait came to an end on Saturday against Argentina, and you’ll struggle to find a happier man than the beaming Houston afterwards, cap firmly placed on his head who seemed like the tears were never far away. Great to see Houston’s Bath team-mates cheering him on as well from the stands and at the side of the players’ tunnel before kick-off.

Connacht, Grenoble and Harlequins: Much maligned in recent weeks, all three of these teams picked up big wins over the weekend. Connacht ended Ulster’s unbeaten start to the season, bottom French side Grenoble were huge winners at home to Bayonne, running in five tries. Harlequins meanwhile started the weekend in 11th but booted their way past Northampton, rising to 8th.

Broken Thermostat

Gloucester: Offer the Cherry and Whites a draw away to Exeter before kick-off and they might have taken it. Tell them they would be up 27-13 with 15 minutes to go, and perhaps not. Tough result for Gloucester supporters waiting for their team to deliver.

Brrrr…. Someone get these guys a warm cuppa soup!

The rest of the Rugby Championship: As excellent as New Zealand were, the fact that they won the competition by 17 points ahead of second-placed Australia devalues the competition entirely. Let’s hope that gap closes considerably in 2017, because New Zealand aside, this year’s edition won’t live long in the memory.

South Africa’s tactics: As expected, the win over Australia in Pretoria was a false dawn. In back-to-back home games with Morné Steyn at fly-half, the Boks have failed to score a try, and booted the leather off the ball and hoped for turnovers deep in their opponent’s territory – except the kicking game hasn’t been good enough to generate the necessary field position or steals at the breakdown for that to be effective. Not to mention the leaky defence. November looks set to be a rough month for Allister Coetzee.

Argentina turnovers: Los Pumas are a genuine thrill to watch, and their offloads around the fringes of the ruck in particular split the Wallabies open time and again at Twickenham. Beating 29 defenders? Very good. 17 turnovers? Not so good. Finding the right time and place to keep it tight or to loosed up is still Argentina’s big need.

Nick Phipps vs Physio: This whole episode was bizarre. First, the Argentine physio appears to be going for the ball, which shouldn’t be happening. But to shove him over as Phipps did surely warrants a card. Phipps was given a Citing Commissioner Warning but some in-game punishment seemed fair too. And this came a couple of months after Phipps decided the best place for Malakai Fekitoa’s boot to be was deep in the stands. Something to monitor.

Sale Sharks: Having knocked off Leicester at home we expected more from Sale away to Bath in a potential blockbuster, but neither team really got going – except Bath won 30-3. Add in some consistency and the Sharks could be a quality outfit.

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