Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: June 30 2015

It is time for Planet Rugby's 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!

New Zealand Super Rugby: With the exception of the Blues, the New Zealand conference has produced a level of rugby this year far superior to their counterparts in South Africa and Australia, so it's fitting that the 2015 Super Rugby Final will be an all-Kiwi affair. The Hurricanes and Highlanders have been the two best sides in the competition and even the convoluted play-off system couldn't deny the tournament the final it deserves. The harsh truth be told, there would be a strong argument for suggesting that the next best teams were the Chiefs and Crusaders such was the gap in quality. Will the Kiwi domination of the southern hemisphere continue in the Rugby Championship? Based on this, yes.

Aaron Smith: Without doubt the best scrum-half in the world at the moment (and strong contender for best player on the planet in any position), Smith has been the kingpin in the Highlanders' phenomenal season. The speed at which he operates in amazing, which makes his decision making all the more impressive. Week on week he turns up with a big game for the Highlanders, a team that means so much to him. Bring on Saturday's battle.

TJ Perenara and Waisake Naholo: Smith's battle of course is against TJ Perenara, who is in the shake-up to be Super Rugby's top try scorer in 2015. He is trailing the Highlanders wing by a single touchdown ahead of the final. Who would bet against at least one of them scoring?

Highlanders forwards: Not an All Black amongst them but they gave the Waratahs' all-international set of forwards a real working over in Sydney, especially at lineout time, where a handful of crucial steals robbed the outgoing champions of momentum. They were all top drawer.

Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu: Two outstanding talents in the Hurricanes backline at very different stages of their rugby careers but equally impressive in the demolition of the Brumbies. Based on what we've seen so far, Milner-Skudder looks set for a long All Black career as he joins the next generation of brilliant runners to take over the mantle from veterans like Nonu after the World Cup. We hope he's fit to make the final.

Broken Thermostat:

Michael Cheika: His team wasn't great on Saturday as their Super Rugby title defence came to an end along with Cheika's time at the helm, as he will now concentrate soley on the Wallabies. His spell ended in defeat but kudos to Cheika for rebuilding the NSW outfit into a winning unit over the past three years. Credit to him too for not venting his spleen what the ref after that penalty try. He was honest, his outfit was under par.

Brrr….. someone get these guys a warmmmm cuppa soup.

Waratahs: Fans in Sydney may still be feeling sore about the penalty try awarded against their team but there was nothing controversial about the other four tries that the Highlanders ran past their disappointing hosts. Most importantly, the brutal 'Tahs pack failed to dominate physically.

Jordan Turner-Hall: Yet another English player making the headlines after a boozy night out. It emerged on Friday that the Quins centre is facing assualt charges after being involved in a nightclub brawl in October that left two guys in their early 20s roughed up. Not the conduct of a professional athlete.

South African coaches: Four of South Africa's six teams do not currently have a head coach for Super Rugby next year and local options are few and far between. Is it a crisis? After the worst Super Rugby campaign in many years, it's as worrying as things can get in the Republic.

Springbok selectors: The howls of discontent with the 49 names announced for the Rugby Championship could be heard on social media from Cape Town to Musina with many demanding why Jaco Kriel was not included. It was a tough call to leave out the Lions flanker, who has been outstanding throughout this season. A couple of back-row players selected in his place come in the form of Heinrich Brüssow and Oupa Mohoje which, on form, is unfair. Kriel has been a rock alongside team-mates Warren Whiteley and Warwick Tecklenburg, with the eighth most defenders beaten in Super Rugby a stat many backs would be happy with.

Namibia: You're in trouble when your coach departs three months before the World Cup after a 43-3 loss to Romania and 20-3 defeat to Spain. Those results of course are worrying and consequently Danie Vermeulen resigned. Into his place comes former Cardiff Blues boss Phil Davies, who has plenty of work to do before the pool campaign starts against…. wait for it,  New Zealand on September 24. On this kind of form it could be a cricket score.