Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we pick out the star performers of Round Three in the Rugby Championship.
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we pick out the stand-out performers of Round Three in the Rugby Championship.
Wins were claimed by the All Blacks and Wallabies over the weekend as New Zealand moved three points clear of the Springboks at the summit with three rounds to go.
This week the duo face off in Wellington in a massive game but ahead of that build-up, let's select our XV of Round Three.
Rugby Championship Team of the Week: Round Three
15 Israel Dagg (New Zealand) – On his return to the side Dagg didn't put a foot wrong, regularly making ground with the ball and generally causing Argentina lots of problems. Given the wet conditions we couldn't have expected much more from him. That was just enough to edge out Israel Folau who mixed the very good, notably his outrageous flick to set up the winning try, with the downright ordinary. The Aussie is as good a counter-attacking player as there is in world rugby, so why keep kicking the ball away, poorly?
14 Cornal Hendricks (South Africa) – It was meant to be Bryan Habana's special day, but in the end Hendricks was the Springbok winger to provide the team's first try. Taking advantage of some good work from his team-mates to get some space out wide, Hendricks made it look all to easy as he skipped inside Nick Phipps' covering tackle to score. He might have been quiet aside from that, but with no wingers really shining, he gets our nod.
13 Tevita Kuridrani (Australia) – The Brumby was a regular starter in the Wallaby side when they went on that seven-match winning streak but the Super Rugby form of Adam Ashley-Cooper ultimately saw him hand over the shirt. Now back in the side due to an enforced reshuffle, Kuridrani made a point to Ewen McKenzie with an outstanding showing of running rugby. His thirteen carries kept Jan Serfontein busy in Perth.
12 Matt Toomua (Australia) – It's fair to say it wasn't a weekend where the inside centres grabbed the headlines, so much so that Kurtley Beale earned some consideration for his cameo appearance. In the end we've given the spot to his Wallaby team-mate Matt Toomua who showed his class by drawing in the tackle of Serfontein before feeding Folau for the first try. Solid in defence, Toomua managed to keep Jean de Villiers very quiet as well.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand) – 26 tries in 25 internationals. Savea's combination of being in the right place at the right time with his immense power and speed make him arguably the most potent finisher in the game. He leads the Rugby Championship try charts on three.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand) – Not the best off the kicking tee but in every other department Barrett was superb on his first international start at fly-half. While 'The Ice Man' Bernard Foley kicked the winning points for the Wallabies, it was Barrett's running game that saw him stand out over the rest. Four defenders beaten as his set-up of Liam Messam's try was one of two assists for the 'Canes star.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand) – 233 minutes played out of the 240 so far in the Rugby Championship sums up how highly Steve Hansen rates Smith. He is relentless in attack and marshalling his troops, knowing when to fire out his slick service or to keep it tight. His score from Kieran Read's slip ball that sent the scrum-half under the posts was evidence of the ongoing communication between the Kiwi brains trust.
8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa) – The Stormer has been a rock for the Springboks over the past year and was his physical self on Saturday, giving the Wallabies a few sore bodies on Sunday no doubt. Unlucky to be penalised for his tackle on James Slipper in a performance that saw him make the most carries and the second most tackles for his team. A mention for Kieran Read for his ten carries and try assist in Napier.
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand) – Another good shift from McCaw – the All Blacks top tackler with twelve who did his bit getting around the park. Kept honest by the Argentine back-row. Interesting to see the combination of him and Sam Cane working well after LMessam was withdrawn.
6 Juan Manuel LeguizamÃ³n (Argentina) – We don't hand awards for entertainment, but LeguizamÃ³n deserves one. His intent to carry the ball in Napier was excellent, making the most carries for his side with twelve and racking up the metres too. One clearance kick sticks in the mind. A beloved maverick.
5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) – All four number 5s in action this weekend were ineligible for different reasons – Victor Matfield missed four tackles, Sam Whitelock lasted half an hour, while Rob Simmons and TomÃ¡s Lavanini were too ill-disciplined – meaning we've moved Etzebeth over into the slot. Six line-out takes and two steals made him stand out.
4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand) – What can you say? Retallick is developing an uncanny ability to make our jaws drop. His athleticism against Argentina for a man of his size was pretty extraordinary. Ten tackles and some brilliant handling book his spot in the XV.
3 Owen Franks (New Zealand) – The best of the bunch, Franks was kept busy by Marcos Ayerza in the scrum before gaining parity. Seven tackles was a good input too from a tighthead.
2 Agustin Creevy (Argentina) – The Pumas hooker seems to relish the captaincy of his team, and has been impressive all tournament in a leadership role. He was very active around the park once more, more than held his own in the scrum, while managing to maintain his accuracy in the line-out. Now if he could just ensure his team-mates don't switch off before half-time in future! Hat tip to Dane Coles who continued his impressive recent form for the All Blacks.
1 James Slipper (Australia) – It's been quite a transformation for Slipper, who has gone from selection by default to an above average international loosehead. It's got to the stage now where his absence next Saturday is a big issue, because the Wallabies don't have a replacement who offers the same impact around the park. His scrummaging is still not perfect, but Slipper did enough in the set-piece this week to deserve a spot. Also worth mentioning Marcos Ayerza who once again impressed.