Planet Rugby

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

29th October 2013 11:01

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Charl McLeod and David Lemi

It is time for our weekly wrap 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!

Canterbury: What do they put in the water in Canterbury? When the chips are down they almost always deliver, with extra sauce we might add. Going to an impressive Wellington outfit in the ITM Cup final as underdogs, Canterbury put in an outstanding showing, winning 29-13 to secure their sixth straight title. They were simply too good as Andy Ellis, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal and George Whitelock all crossed the line at Westpac Stadium.

Sharks: Better in just about every aspect of the game in the final against Western Province, the Sharks completed their revenge for last year's loss in the 2012 Final at King's Park. Won by an astute kicking game and punishing defence, the Sharks' young coaching team got their tactics spot on. Hard to believe their campaign started with a loss to Griquas. It ended with glory.

Northampton: Saracens may have been without some of their England contingent, but don't let that take anything away from Northampton's stunning win on Saturday. Saracens simply do not concede tries, let alone six, so to see Saints produce that level of performance is ominous for the rest of the league. They also did it without George North, Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisiero.

Ulster: After a somewhat shaky start to their Pro12 campaign, Ulster are hitting some serious form after running in five tries against Cardiff Blues last Friday. A Heineken Cup home win over Leicester Tigers may have been demanded by the Ravenhill faithful if not by the coaching staff, but a head-turning victory at Montpellier a week later was not. With Paddy Jackson and Andrew Trimble in rude health, Jared Payne is coming into his own at outside centre, with some already touting him as the long-term Irish replacement for Brian O'Driscoll.

Charl McLeod and Pieter-Steph du Toit: A double try scorer and Man of the Match both deserve individual recognition for their roles in the Currie Cup Final. McLeod was tenacious throughout and his first score stunned Newlands into silence, whilst his second clinched the result. Du Toit on the other hand was everywhere and looks destined to be a Springbok for the next decade.

James Hook: He's had worse weeks. 26 points off the kicking tee to help Perpignan beat Bordeaux-Bègles at Stade Aimé Giral followed his inclusion in Warren Gatland's Wales squad for the upcoming Tests against South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia. Hook's next job is to break into that team.

Jano Vermaak: Though he missed out on much Rugby Championship game-time behind Ruan Pienaar and Fourie du Preez, Vermaak scored a crucial try for Toulouse against the illustrious Toulon in Saturday's table-topping clash. Sadly for the scrum-half, that wasn't enough to convince Heynecke Meyer to include him in his Springboks November Test squad.


Broken Thermostat:

Springboks in the Currie Cup: The semi-final stage and beyond in the Currie Cup is the same every year. Despite sweating blood to reach the final four, several players who have worked hard throughout the tournament are then replaced by returning South African internationals. Take Kyle Cooper of the Sharks as an example. Cooper was a mainstay and in great form for the Sharks until Bismarck du Plessis returned in Round 10, with Cooper then confined to the bench and getting only five minutes in the final. SARU obviously want the best players available on the field to enhance the competition and attract fans, but it means that the Springbok players aren't exactly earning their medals if they've only played a maximum 25% of the possible matches. For guys like Cooper, that's the rough end of a bad deal.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Western Province: Newlands expected back-to-back Currie Cup titles but unfortunately the underdog Sharks had other ideas. Western Province failed to match their visitors' intensity as Patrick Lambie et al dominated the final, prevailing 33-19 as the hosts came off second best in a painful defeat. Province were second best in all areas and there should have been a much bigger gap on the scoreboard by the final whistle.

Mike Phillips: What a week. Turning up for training under the influence of alcohol led to Wales' scrum-half being dismissed following his latest off-field transgression. It was not, as mentioned, his first warning at the club as Bayonne chairman and principle sponsor Alain Afflelou said: "It was not possible to keep him. I had great respect and affection for him. I had already kept him on a year ago, against everyone's advice." Phillips is now reportedly ready to sue the club but from where Bayonne and Afflelou are standing, Phillips doesn't have much hope after being "a repeat offender".

Worcester: Things just keep getting worse for Worcester. The Warriors found themselves two tries down to Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park inside ten minutes on Saturday, and the eventual 40-6 hammering left Dean Ryan's men cast adrift at the foot of the table. Winless, and with just two points to their name, cracks are already beginning to appear at Sixways, with Ryan snapping at a local reporter who dared to broach the subject of relegation.

Lee Byrne: Not known for diplomacy or restraint, Byrne took to Twitter to vent his rage at being overlooked for Wales' November Test squad. "Obviously squad was picked on blooding players for 2015 World Cup not on form or playing ability," he fumed. Aged 33, and with golden boy Leigh Halfpenny to usurp for another crack at the red number-fifteen jersey, Byrne's test-match days look to be numbered at best.

Biarritz: Top 14 survival looks bleak even at this early stage. Biarritz's ninth loss of the domestic season came at Castres, by a 39-0 scoreline. What makes that defeat even more worrying is that BO had a line-up that included Dimitri Yachvili, Imanol Harinordoquy, Damien Traille and Joe Pietersen.

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