Who’s hot…and who’s not!

Date published: June 23 2015

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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 U20: New Zealand's status as the world's leading rugby nation was highlighted when the Junior World Championship trophy returned to the undefeated Baby Blacks, who beat defending champions England in a high-quality final on Saturday. 

Highlanders: Deserved semi-finalists for the first time since 2002, the team from Dunedin have been a joy to watch all year and their thrilling clash with the Chiefs was no exception. Aaron Smith was phenomenal, setting up both tries for Waisake Naholo. They provided proof that you don't have to play boring rugby in big games to get big results. Whatever the final outcome this season, we salute the Highlanders' approach to the game.

Joe Tomane: You cannot ask for more than a hat-trick of well-taken tries, inside 30 minutes, from a winger in a play-off. Such clinical finishing will do Tomane's chances of a place in the Wallaby World Cup team no harm. Top work.

Brumbies pack: While Tomane was doing most of the scoring, the ground work – quite literally – was done by the visitors' forwards in Cape Town. The much-vaunted physicality of the Stormers was met with a fierce response from David Pocock and co. as they ruled the breakdown. A second crossing of the Indian Ocean in the space of a week makes the task awaiting them in Wellington a daunting one, but the lessons learnt from 2013 when they flew from Pretoria to Hamilton will stand them in good stead. 

Fresh-faced new All Blacks: That incredible Kiwi production line of talent continues to roll out top-class players, as illustrated the newest additions to the All Black squad. We all expected try-machine Naholo to get the nod and coach Steve Hansen said Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst's call up was a "no brainer". 'Canes full-back Nehe Milner-Skudder has the potential to become the next big thing on the world stage while Lima Sopoaga is rewarded for a stellar season with the Highlanders. Unheralded but hard-working Codie Taylor could be the man to fill a big gap in the hooking department, where stocks are limited. 

Italy U20: Kudos to this year's Junior World Championship hosts, who avoided relegation with a last-gap win over Samoa. The consequences of the defeat would have represented a massive blow to the development of Italian rugby. 


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

Allister Coetzee's Stormers: Since the current Finals Series format was implemented in 2011, a total of 22 knock-out games have been contested, with the home side losing on just five occasions. The Stormers have been that team three times. 

Once again, fans in Cape Town were let down as Coetzee's time at the helm at Newlands came to an end after a display that brought some painful truths back into the spotlight. 

To be fair on the outgoing coach, the Stormers are the best team in South Africa and Western Province are the Currie Cup champions, so we were tempted to add his team to the 'broken thermostat' section. 

But at the post-match press conference, Coetzee insisted that his team's failure to go all the way in Super Rugby had "absolutely nothing to with the gameplan." That would be the same gameplan that has delivered just five four-try bonus points in 68 regular season games over the past four years, in a tournament designed to reward teams that play spectator-friendly rugby. (The same lack of bonus points is directly responsible for conceding a home semi-final to the Waratahs this year). The same gameplan didn't involve trying to create space to score a try against a 13-man Brumbies defence on Saturday. 

Coetzee tried to play down the impact of the loss of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger but without those two – Vermeulen especially – the Stormers pack simply lacked bite. When the performance of a team drops so drastically because of the absence of one or two players, one must question the systems in place. 

"At least we're not the Bulls" was the catch phrase amongst many Stormers fans in the aftermath and seeing the SA Conference trophy being raised after such a humbling loss only serves to underline just how poor South Africa's Super Rugby teams have been this year. 

"We didn't win the big one… Super Rugby, yet. I'll leave that to the next guy; I've done the ground work," said Coetzee. Some might suggest it's time to start over from scratch. 

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