Rugby Championship: Two Cents Rugby picks his top five players from Round One

Two Cents Rugby
Two Cents Rugby picks his top five players from the opening round of the Rugby Championship.

Two Cents Rugby picks his top five players from the opening round of the Rugby Championship.

With the dust having settled on week one of the Rugby Championship, Two Cents Rugby selects his five standout players of the opening round.

The YouTube star has settled on two forwards and three backs and unsurprisingly they come from South Africa and New Zealand after their respective wins.

Marco van Staden (South Africa)

Filling in for the injured Springboks captain Siya Kolisi was always going to add a bit of extra pressure for Marco van Staden, but he handled the occasion with aplomb.

More known for his jackling, Van Staden put his hand up on attack as the Springboks dominated possession. He finished with 43 metres and five defenders beaten, the most of any openside flanker in round one of the Rugby Championship.

He was a key part in one of Kurt-Lee Arende‘s tries when he peeled off a maul and popped the ball to Bongi Mbonambi into space. He was at the front of the maul alongside Pieter-Steph du Toit which saw the Springboks awarded a penalty try.

Everywhere you looked, Van Staden was there. Very encouraging for the depth of this South African side.

Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)

A man of the match performance from Jordie Barrett in the All Blacks‘ win over the Pumas, he took another step in securing his spot as Ian Foster’s preferred inside centre.

Barrett used his size and speed well, carrying 12 times for 72 metres and bagging a try. But perhaps more impressive was both his defensive shift and his distribution. He finished as New Zealand’s top tackler in the game with 13 from 15 and nabbed a couple of turnovers.

He also helped pull the strings of the backline, highlighted by his part in the wrap around move which saw brother Beauden go over.

Stats wise he finished the game with 11 passes including a couple of offloads, more than any other midfielder.

André Esterhuizen (South Africa)

Another inside centre, André Esterhuizen may not have been awarded man of the match in his game (hard when a teammate gets a hat-trick of tries) but he certainly put in one of his best shifts in Springboks colours.

Perhaps aided by the pure amount of ball the Springboks had, Esterhuizen was able to bring his huge carrying game against the Wallabies defenders. He carried a whopping 17 times, more than any other player this week. Along the way he beat five defenders, which was equal first for the week and 56 running metres.

More encouraging though, was his ability to shift the ball, which is something Springbok 12s have been criticised for in recent years. He finished with seven passes, including an assist which saw Arendse go over on the left wing.

He has earned his spot on the plane to New Zealand.

Scott Barrett (New Zealand)

A slightly unfamiliar second-row for the All Blacks in week one, with no Sam Whitelock and no Brodie Retallick. Scott Barrett though, as the senior man stepped up and continued his cracking Super Rugby form against Argentina.

Ball in hand Barrett almost had himself a try, although when he realised he would be short he had the presence of mind to ensure quick ruck ball which allowed Ardie Savea to go over the next phase. It was also Barrett’s offload which saw Coles score New Zealand’s first.

Defensively solid, he made nine from nine tackles and was a key man in the air, both securing New Zealand ball and disrupting the Pumas.

A good selection headache for the All Blacks to have once Whitelock is back fit.

Kurt-Lee Arende (South Africa)

Arendse’s amazing try-scoring run for South Africa goes on, making seven matches in a row he has gone over the whitewash.

There was some doubt over Arendse in the physical battle against the much bigger Suliasi Vunivalu, but in the end it proved to be a mismatch in Arendse’s favour.

Along with his three tries, Arendse clocked up four clean breaks and beat three tackles, making him an absolute menace on attack. That was highlighted in particular by his second try when three scrambling Wallaby defenders never really looked like being able to stop him.

He will join the team travelling to New Zealand and assuming he is selected, it’ll be an interesting selection from an All Blacks perspective on how to stop him.

READ MORE: Rugby Championship Team of the Week: All Blacks and Springboks dominate