Planet Rugby

Team of the Week: Rugby Championship

18th August 2014 14:43

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TEam of the week Rugby Championship round 1

Tough in the rain: Vermeulen and Charles

Now that the rain has stopped hammering down in the southern hemisphere, we pick out the stand-out performers from the opening round of the Rugby Championship.

Two very close contests made for some tight calls and an almost ever spread across the four nations.

Rugby Championship Team of the Week: Round One

15 Willie le Roux (South Africa): On a difficult evening when security under the high was of paramount importance, Le Roux once again showed his value. South Africa's best chance of scoring a second try came when he almost latched onto his own chip ahead.

14 Cornal Hendricks (South Africa): On weekend when opportunities for the wide men were few and far between, Hendricks nevertheless played an influential role as half of the combination that created the only try of Round One.

13 Malakai Fekitoa (New Zealand): A late inclusion following Conrad Smith's return to New Zealand for the birth of his child, if the giant All Black centre was a little rattled he didn't show it. Made plenty of metres and was solid in defence in conditions not made for backs.

12 Matt Toomua (Australia): It's no secret that the Wallabies love Toomua's defensive capabilities. The Brumbies man chopped and changed with Kurtley Beale in attack and was a more prominent kicking threat than his team-mate, making good ground in attack and beating a couple of defenders whilst chipping in with his share of tackles.

11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): Doing enough to see off the competition, Savea always looked for work in Sydney and made a high number of carries in comparison to the rest of the backlines. Such a tough force to bring down, even in the flood.

10 Nicolás Sánchez (Argentina): A lot was expected of the young Pumas pivot and he lived up to his billing as an exciting playmaker. Sánchez was the most dangerous runner at Loftus, beating four defenders and creating a golden opportunity for Manuel Montero, who surely would have scored if he had managed to hold on.

9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): Strong competition for this spot from Ruan Pienaar, who scored the only try in either Test match, but we've gone with the All Blacks number nine. No one made more metres in Sydney as Smith got through a lot of work, kicking well in the process.

8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa): The Stormers number eight formed part of an impressive combined effort from the entire Springbok back row. Vermeulen was a willing ball-carrier - which gave the Boks momentum in atrocious weather conditions - and hardly made a mistake at the back of the scrum, even though the Boks were under pressure in the set-phase. Also won a handful of line-outs and did well on defence with eight tackles.

7 Michael Hooper (Australia): The most difficult selection of the opening round as all the openside flankers impressed for their respective teams. All Blacks skipperRichie McCaw's 20 tackles was the most by a single player in the entire round, and Springbok tearaway Francois Louw was named man of the match in a game where Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe also impressed for los Pumas. But Hooper gets the nod after impressing as a ball carrier in his side's draw against the All Blacks. Also had a strong game on defence with 11 hits.

6 Marcell Coetzee (South Africa): Came in as a late replacement for Willem Alberts and delivered a storming performance in the unfamiliar blindside flanker position. Didn't do lots of ball-carrying but brought plenty of energy to the Bok team and combined well with Vermeulen and Louw, especially on defence where he led the way for South Africa with 14 tackles.

5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): The freak of nature in the All Blacks' engine room continues to excel, making 15 tackles against the Wallabies and getting his hands on the ball in attack. Also won three lineouts and stole two.

4 Mariano Galarza (Argentina): It rare to see the Springbok line-out put under pressure but Galarza pinched two throws off the home side and was the Puma's primary target on their own throw-ins. In those conditions, every ctach in the air was crucial. A mention for Sam Carter.

3 Ramiro Herrera (Argentina): What a performance from the Argentine scrum! The Castres prop dominated Beast Mtawarira. The old faces are gone from Argentina's front row, but it remains as formidable as ever. A mention too for Owen Franks.

2 Nathan Charles (Australia): Australia might have been concerned about tackling New Zealand without Stephen Moore or Tatafu Polota-Nau around, but Charles went well. A presence around the park, the Wallabies' line-out wasn't perfect neither was New Zealand's. Will only get better with experience, but he's a tough nut. A mention for Argentina skipper Agustín Creevy.

1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina): A top performance from the Leicester loosehead, who got the better of Jannie du Plessis and put his bulk to good use around the park with some solid hits. A mention for James Slipper.

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