Now that the dust has settled after Round Five of the Rugby Championship, we select the players that stood out over the weekend’s fixtures.
South Africa failed to cross the whitewash but did manage to come through for a win against Australia, snapping a three-game losing streak thanks to their work at the breakdown.
Meanwhile the All Blacks were far too good in the first half of their game with Argentina to be caught, producing some excellent tries.
Let’s see who made this week’s team.
Rugby Championship: Team of the Week
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand): Arguably the world’s best full-back, Smith was elusive as ever against Argentina over the weekend. He seamlessly slotted in where ever he was needed to add the finishing touches to the All Blacks attack. Smith made assists and ran his opponents ragged while breaking the line twice, beating three defenders. He even bagged an electric try after running a perfectly angled line that put him into space.
14 Dane Haylett-Petty (Australia): Haylett-Petty produced an attacking masterclass against the Springboks. The South African-born winger made a whopping 149 metres on Saturday after some searing breaks down his wing. He used his opportunities well as after two clean breaks he beat six defenders. The flyer also got away three offloads to perpetuate Australia’s momentum.
13 Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand): The 21-year-old showed experience beyond his years with the way he used the ball. The Chiefs centre broke the dam wall for his side in the 27th minute when the score was 0-3 to the All Blacks and ran a fantastic line to get over get the five-pointer. He also showed expert precession when he assisted Dane Coles’ try, as he picked up a terrible pass as he was being tackled, to offload to Coles in an instant and doing the same for Ryan Crotty’s try moments after his own.
12 Ryan Crotty (New Zealand): Crotty made another strong statement when it comes to why the New Zealand number 12 jersey belongs to him. He ran a great support line to pick up a pass from Lienert-Brown to score in the 34th minute. The Crusaders inside centre also made two clean breaks and beat two defenders while making a solid 58 metres.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): All symptoms of Savea’s dip in form earlier in the year have been cured as the winger set the Estadio Jose Amalfitani alight on Saturday. The speedy juggernaut ghosted through defenders as he broke the line three times while making 139 metres for his team. He was also strong on defence, making eight tackles.
10 Morné Steyn (South Africa): The veteran pivot was in fine form at his old stomping ground and kicked all his team’s points in their win over the Wallabies. It wasn’t a perfect performance, with South Africa’s tactical kicking far from at its best, but Steyn also put his body on the line in defence, making eight hits.
9 Rudy Paige (South Africa): Justified his selection with an impressive display at the base of the Bok scrum in Pretoria. Paige caught the eye with his crisp service which to Steyn and the Bulls number nine was unlucky to leave the field due to injury. Edges out Argentina’s Tomás Cubelli and TJ Perenara of New Zealand.
8 Facundo Isa (Argentina): Delivered another superb performance in a losing cause against the All Blacks, especially in the second half when there were times when it looked like he was taking the fight to the world champions on his own. Finished with 110 metre gained from an incredible 23 runs with two clean breaks, five defenders beaten and four offloads. Was rewarded with a try for his efforts and also made eight tackles.
7 Francois Louw (South Africa): The Bok tearaway played his best Test of the year and came out on top in his battle with Michael Hooper, who was also impressive, in Pretoria. Louw proved his worth at the breakdown, winning three turnovers, and was a willing ball carrier, gaining 33 metres from five runs with two offloads. Ardie Savea also did well for New Zealand.
6 Tebo Mohoje (South Africa): Delivered another fine performance at the coalface of the Bok forward effort and makes our team despite being replaced early in the second half. Mohoje was particularly impressive in defence and finished with 12 tackles made.
5 Patrick Tuipulotu (New Zealand): Starting ahead of the rested Sam Whitelock and the physical Blues lock delivered, posing a threat with the ball in hand, with five big runs, and doing his part at the lineout with two takes. The 23-year-old might not start in Durban, but he’s a high-class option in reserve. Takes the spot ahead of Pieter-Steph du Toit.
4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand): Performed as ever at the set-piece but Retallick is still an excellent weapon in open play for the All Blacks, beating defenders and making clean breaks while showing off his offloading ability too. The former World Player of the Year gets the nod instead of Eben Etzebeth.
3 Vincent Koch (South Africa): Eleven tackles from the big tighthead in 50 minutes is quite an effort, winning him this spot after starting against the Wallabies at Loftus. Koch will head to the Premiership to link up with Saracens after the Rugby Championship comes to an end and he looks like some signing too.
2 Adriaan Strauss (South Africa): Outstanding effort from the Springbok captain, who has looked over the last few months like a man feeling the strain of leading a struggling side. Strauss made three line breaks and hit 12 lineout targets while on the field, comfortably outperforming his opposite man Stephen Moore. Picked ahead of Dane Coles.
1 Scott Sio (Australia): Had his try laid up on a plate by fellow prop Sekope Kepu to go under the posts early on, his first Test try, and Sio was effective as ever in the loose. One of his better games this year. Joe Moody‘s yellow card rules him out.