Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: A few Chiefs earn selection amongst a strong Australian showing

Dylan Coetzee
Super Rugby Pacific: Split with O'Connor, McKenzie and Valetini

After the eighth round of Super Rugby Pacific, Planet Rugby breaks down the star performers from a thrilling weekend of rugby action.

There is a strong Australian contingent in this week’s team, but there is still a solid return of New Zealand players who only featured in one of the weekend’s games.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week

15 William Havili (Moana Pasifika): The full-back put in a brave performance making an impressive 120 metres in only 12 carries. It was a complete effort as he made eight passes, kicked nine times and won three turnovers. Hurricanes star Josh Moorby and Chief Shaun Stevenson deserve mentions for lively performances with ball in hand.

14 Suliasi Vunivalu (Reds): The speedster put in his best performance of the season including one try, a try assist, three clean breaks and a whopping 120 metres carried. It could be a sign of what is to come, and given Wallabies boss Eddie Jones’ love for league converts, the star will be looking to kick on and book his ticket to the World Cup.

13 Izaia Perese (Waratahs): It was a brilliant outing for the Wallaby, who opened the scoring with a beautiful running line off Jake Gordon. He would score a second in the final minutes and assist another in between that. He beat five defenders and had three clean breaks to earn selection. Moana Pasifika’s Levi Aumua is unlucky to miss out after another physical performance in the midfield.

12 James O’Connor (Reds): If ever someone needed a big performance it was the veteran who has been struggling for form this season. It was not the case this week as O’Connor rolled back the years with two try assists, five defenders beaten, one line break and 61 metres made. He also made seven tackles and is deservedly in this week’s side.

11 Ben O’Donnell (Brumbies): Sporting tape on his head much like a prime Nick Cummins, the wing had an evening to remember with a stunning hat-trick of tries for the Brumbies. In the process, he beat five defenders, broke the line three times and still managed seven tackles. It was a performance that certainly announced what he is all about.

10 Damian McKenzie (Chiefs): Another week in Super Rugby Pacific, another mention of the smiling assassin in the team of the week. McKenzie looks to have reached full maturity and is bossing more games than not, making himself a shoo-in for a spot in the All Blacks squad. He scored 18 points, including a try for himself, as he shone yet again in the clash with the Hurricanes. Simply impressive.

9 Jake Gordon (Waratahs): It was tough to pick between the Wallaby and Hurricanes star Cam Roigard, but Gordon gets the nod because of his impressive influence. His inside ball to Perese for the opening try was sumptuous, and he scored one of his own by being in the right place at the right time. He controlled the game from the base and will have caught the eye of Wallabies management with his efforts.

8 Ardie Savea (Hurricanes): Another that was closely contested, but the All Black’s superior defensive efforts in a big game earn him selection. Savea made an impressive 16 tackles with two turnovers won, as well as solid metres with each carry. Reds star Harry Wilson out-carried Savea but did not have the same influence on his side.

7 Fraser McReight (Reds): The flank is another star in the making who is really starting to fill his shoes as he put in another blockbuster performance. On defence, McReight made 14 tackles and won three turnovers in a brilliant showing, whilst on attack he bagged himself a try and beat two defenders. Elsewhere, Du’Plessis Kirifi of the Hurricanes deserves special mention for his ridiculous 21 tackles this weekend.

6 Rob Valetini (Brumbies): A very difficult one to decide with Chief Pita Gus Sowakula and Moana Pasifika’s hometown hero Miracle Fai’ilagi both shining, but it is the work rate of the Wallaby that trumps the duo. Valetini made nine carries with ball in hand and racked up an outstanding 19 tackles on defence. It is the sort of hard-working performance we have become accustomed to seeing from him.

5 Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs): The second-row is learning a great deal from his partner Brodie Retallick, and it is evident through his work rate and lineout work. Vaa’i made a solid 12 carries, beating two defenders and offloading once. He made five tackles and a turnover whilst taking four lineouts and stealing one. A neat performance.

4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs): Both Chiefs make this week’s team as the veteran put in another good shift. Retallick made 12 carries, eight tackles and a turnover whilst taking six lineouts and stealing one. Hurricane James Blackwell deserves mention as he put in another solid outing to continue the rapid rise of his stocks in the global game.

3 Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes): The prop was busy all game long, particularly on defence where he made eight tackles. He kept things neat at scrum-time in a solid performance. Waratah Harry Johnson-Holmes challenged for the spot but gave away too many penalties.

2 Matt Faessler (Reds): The hooker’s form has really been heating up over the last couple of weeks, and he has a brace of tries in round eight to add. He made 39 metres in seven carries, beating three and breaking the line twice. On defence, he made eight tackles and was absolutely pinpoint at lineout time with an impressive 13 throws completed.

1 James Slipper (Brumbies): It was a busy defensive outing for the veteran, who made a solid 11 tackles to add to his six carries on the day. Outside of that, he kept things fairly clean in a workmanlike performance.

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