Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: Blues and Chiefs lead the way after fine victories

David Skippers
Super Rugby Pacific image Round One 2023.jpg

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

The Blues and Chiefs dominate the line-up with five players apiece in our team after clinching memorable victories over the Highlanders and Crusaders, while the Fijian Drua are next best with two representatives.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week

15 Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs): Although he did not get his name onto the scoresheet, Stevenson was one of the Hamilton-based outfit’s star performers during a deserved victory against the Crusaders in Christchurch. He carved holes into the defending champions’ defence and finished with 152 metres gained from 14 runs with nine defenders beaten and two offloads after making three clean breaks. Chase Tiatia also played well on debut for the Western Force.

14 Mark Telea (Blues): The All Blacks flyer was arguably the best player of the round as he delivered a magnificent attacking display as his side clinched a huge win over the Highlanders in Dunedin. From the outset, Telea showed he meant business as he beat defenders at will, finishing with a whopping 202 attacking metres after he made 13 runs with four clean breaks, 13 defenders beaten as well as an offload.

13 Iosefo Masi (Fijian Drua): The former Fiji Sevens representative made a memorable Super Rugby Pacific debut as he was at the forefront of the Drua’s attacking efforts in their narrow triumph over Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Saturday. The 24-year-old ran superb lines and was rewarded with a try either side of half time. That was a fitting reward as he looked dangerous on attack throughout and he comes in ahead of Alex Nankivell of the Chiefs and the Blues’ Rieko Ioane.

12 Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes): He shone at inside centre for the All Blacks during last year’s Autumn Nations Series and has continued where he left off with a fine performance for the Hurricanes in their triumph over the Reds in Townsville. Barrett did well on attack, gaining 59 metres from 12 runs, a defender beaten and three offloads. He was also reliable off the kicking tee, contributing 15 points courtesy of three penalties and as many conversions.

11 Max Jorgensen (Waratahs): The 18-year-old made his bow for the Waratahs against the Brumbies in Sydney and although the home side finished on the losing side, it was not through a lack of effort from Jorgensen. The teenager had a memorable debut as he was a constant threat on attack and was rewarded with two tries after finishing with 90 metres gained from six runs which included four clean breaks and three defenders beaten.

10 Damian McKenzie (Chiefs): There were fine performances from fellow All Black Beauden Barrett and young Aidan Morgan, who shone for the Blues and Hurricanes respectively but McKenzie edges them out after a fine performance in Christchurch for the Chiefs. McKenzie was excellent as a playmaker as he impressed with his game management while excelling off the tee, contributing 11 points in his side’s win via four conversions and a penalty. He also impressed on defence with six hits.

9 Brad Weber (Chiefs): This was a difficult choice as Cam Roigard of the Hurricanes had a good game in his side’s victory over the Reds. But we’ve opted for the All Black, who was superb against the Crusaders. Weber provided a slick service to his outside backs but also kept the defence on their toes with some clever attacking runs. He eventually gained 24 metres with ball in hand from two clean breaks and three defenders beaten.

8 Hoskins Sotutu (Blues): The Blues were in a rampant mood in their derby with the Highlanders and Sotutu was one of the men from Auckland’s star performers. Proved difficult to stop when on attack and finished the game with 82 metres gained from 12 runs which included a clean break, three defenders beaten and five offloads. In other action, Ardie Savea and Pete Samu also caught the eye for the Hurricanes and Brumbies respectively.

7 Dalton Papali’i (Blues): Although All Blacks skipper Sam Cane was one of his team’s star performers, the Blues tearaway gets the nod after a fine showing in Dunedin. Papali’i was his usual busy self at the breakdowns, impressed on attack as he gained 42 metres from seven carries with one clean break a defender beaten, three offloads and a try. However, it’s on defence where he made his biggest impact as he made 21 tackles which is more than any other player in the round.

6 Pita Gus Sowakula (Chiefs): He combined brilliantly with Cane and Luke Jacobson in hostile surroundings in Christchurch but made his mark with a superb all-round performance. The Clermont-bound back-row was a willing ball carrier and proved a thorn in the flesh to the champions’ defence. Sowakula gained 38 metres from eight carries and did not shy from his defensive duties as he made eight hits.

5 Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues): The 30-year-old made his return to New Zealand – after a season in Japan – and delivered a superb performance against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Tuipulotu was prominent with ball in hand as he gained 41 metres from eight carries which included one clean break and a defender beaten. Tuipulotu also impressed on defence as he made nine tackles and edges out Tupou Vaa’i of the Chiefs.

4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs): Another All Blacks second-row makes the team after a brilliant showing in the Hamilton-based franchise’s win over the Crusaders. Retallick did what was expected of him in the lineouts, put his body on the line in defence with 15 tackles made and also crossed for a valuable five-pointer. Meanwhile, Jeremy Thrush of the Western Force and the Brumbies’ Nick Frost also played well.

3 Nepo Laulala (Blues): The New Zealand tighthead prop made his 100th Super Rugby appearance in the Blues’ one-sided victory over the Highlanders and came to the fore with a fine showing at the coalface of his team’s forward effort. The 31-year-old stood up well in the scrums against fellow All Black Ethan de Groot and was a willing ball carrier. Elsewhere, Allan Alaalatoa also had a good game for the Brumbies.

2 Tevita Ikanivere (Fijian Drua): The second Drua player who gets the nod for our team after an excellent performance in his side’s narrow triumph over Moana Pasifika in Auckland. Ikanivere was a human wrecking ball on attack as he finished with a respectable 41 metres gained from five carries which included one clean break, two defenders beaten and a brace of tries. Hurricanes replacement Asafo Aumua was next best.

1 Tom Robertson (Western Force): The Wallabies front-row hit the ground running with a strong all-round performance in the Force’s dramatic victory over Melbourne Rebels in Perth. Robertson caught the eye with impressive scrummaging but was also lively as a ball carrier which saw him being rewarded with a well-taken try. He pips Moana Pasifika’s Abraham Pole, who impressed in a losing cause.

READ MORE: WATCH: Mark Telea starts Blues’ rout over Highlanders with clinical finish