Planet Rugby

Who's hot...and who's not!

17th July 2013 11:26

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frank halai highlanders hot not

Up and down: Halai and the Highlanders

It's time for Planet Rugby's wrap of who has their name in lights this week ... and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

They're on fire!

Chiefs: Hard to ask more of the defending champions than finishing top of the table before the play-offs. With home advantage secured for the semi-final, the Chiefs are once again a good bet for the title. Doing so without Sonny Bill Williams in midfield will have silenced the critics, with the Chiefs also finishing as the league's top try scorers with 50, and made more line breaks than any other side with 148.

Stormers: Fans in Cape Town are calling last Saturday's win over the Bulls 'the game of the season.' The Stormers obviously saved their best for last...pity it was too late.

Crusaders: Off the back of a four-game winning streak, and with eight victories from their last nine starts, the former champs are looking in fine form heading into the knock-out phases.

Frank Halai: A work-in-progress maybe, but the end product is frighteningly positive. Having torn up the Sevens circuit with New Zealand over the last few seasons, the explosive winger has taken to Union with remarkable ease. Certain elements of his game do need work - defensively in particular - but Halai's 10 tries have been a key part of the Blues' resurgence.

Charles Piutau: Most carries (199), most carries (level with Rene Ranger on 24), most defenders beaten (60), second-most metres gained (1395) - all those numbers make Piutau incredibly difficult to ignore.

Morne Steyn: Super Rugby's top points scorer at the end of the regular season with 230 points - 44 more than Beauden Barrett, who is next best - the future Stade Franšais fly-half's boot is deadlier than ever.

Ben Mowen: Super Rugby's top line-out jumper with 71 clean takes during the regular season.

Ben Smith: The Dunedin franchise may have finished bottom of the Super Rugby table at the close of the regular season, but Smith was outstanding. Nobody made more metres in the league than his 1427. He also finished in the top four for carries, offloads, defenders beaten and clean breaks.

Lappies Labuschagne: The Cheetahs flank made more tackles than any other player this season - 237 - that's 19 more than Crusaders grafter Matt Todd, who is next on the list.

Blues backs: The top three line-breakers in Super Rugby are all in Auckland: Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau and Frank Halai.

Waratahs: Change had to happen in the Waratahs camp and under the guidance of Michael Cheika there have been plenty of obvious improvements. Israel Folau's impact was as positive as expected, with eight tries to his name, but the general attitude of the Tahs has been transformed. 45 tries signalled the end of last season's incessant kicking.

USA and Canada U20 Women: North America's top young ladies beat their South African and English counterparts 42-5 and 43-15 respectively over the weekend. Impressive.


Broken Thermostat:

Super Rugby format: It would be hard for anyone to defend the current Super Rugby format as entirely fair in pure sporting terms but for all our complaining, it always produces a close finish. Once again the regular season went down to the wire with the top end of the table being decided by the very last game.

Quade Cooper: The Reds pivot leads the Super Rugby offloads stats with 54 - a sign of his attacking genius or his inability/unwillingnes to take contact?

Chris Pollock: His straight red card for Kane Barrett felt a touch harsh. Barrett's stamp looked clumsy at worst, yet he's walked away with a two-week ban for his troubles and left the Blues down to 14 men for 55 minutes.


Brrrr....someone turn the heater up

Highlanders: Easily the most disappointing side in the southern hemisphere this year. The Highlanders topped the stats for metres gained, metres carried, most defenders beaten and most scrums successes....yet were stuck at the bottom of the standings for most of the season. Their 11 yellow cards obviously didn't help. No on else got more than 6.

Bulls: They looked unbeatable a few weeks ago but in the wake of a lucky escape against the Sharks and heavy loss at Newlands, the Bulls has lost a lot of momentum heading into most important time of the season.

Aussie derbies: If you had the punishing task of sitting through back-to-back Australia derbies last weekend between the Waratahs and the Reds and the Force and the Brumbies, then we pity you. Little excitement, grim viewing.

Gavin Henson: Was anyone really surprised? Yet to even start a new match for Bath after his move from London Welsh, Henson found himself an embroiled in an altercation with a new team-mate in a bar on a night out. After blowing it in Toulon, being sacked by Cardiff and now on the deck in a Bath bar, Henson is his own worst enemy with little chances left.

Kings: As expected, the Kings ended last in their first Super Rugby season. To be fair, they did a lot better than most had predicted, but finishing at the foot of the table with a points difference of -266 is not hot, in anyone's book. Despite having the best tackle success rate in the competition (88 percent) - the new boys were very poor at getting, or using any possession of their own.

by Ross Hastie and Ben Coles

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