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

David Skippers
SRP Team of the Week Round 1 image 2024.jpg

Hoskins Sotutu of the Blues, Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies and Tupou Vaa'i of the Chiefs.

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

The Chiefs and Brumbies dominate the line-up with three players apiece in our side after notching memorable victories over the Crusaders and Rebels, while the Highlanders, Blues, Reds and Hurricanes are next best with two representatives each.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week, Round One

15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Highlanders): A tough selection as the Crusaders’ Chay Fihaki, Zarn Sullivan of the Blues, Shaun Stevenson of the Chiefs and the Rebels’ Andrew Kellaway all caught the eye but we’ve opted for Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, who gave the Highlanders good momentum from the back in their win over Moana Pasifika. The 22-year-old gained 93 metres on attack and scored a brace of tries.

14 Mark Telea (Blues): Although the All Blacks flyer did not cross the whitewash in the Blues‘ victory over the Fijian Drua, he came to the fore with a strong attacking performance. Telea kept the Drua defence on their toes and finished with 43 metres gained from 11 runs, which included one clean break, five defenders beaten and three offloads. Elsewhere, Timoci Tavatavanawai of the Highlanders and Mark Nawaqanitawase of the Waratahs also impressed.

13 Len Ikitau (Brumbies): The Wallaby centre was one of the Brumbies‘ best performers as they cruised to a 30-3 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne. Ikitau looked dangerous with ball in hand, finishing with 39 metres gained from four carries, which included six defenders beaten, but also shone on defence with nine tackles made. In other action, Rieko Ioane also played well for the Blues.

12 Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs): After a lengthy injury lay-off, the All Black made his long-awaited Super Rugby Pacific return in the Chiefs’ victory over the Crusaders in the tournament opener in Hamilton and put in a superb all-round effort. Tupaea was in the thick of the action, finishing with 64 metres gained from 16 runs, including six defenders beaten. Elsewhere, Hunter Paisami and Jordie Barrett also had good outings for the Reds and Hurricanes respectively.

11 Corey Toole (Brumbies): Chiefs speedster Etene Nanai-Seturo had some good moments against the Crusaders, as did Caleb Clark for the Blues against the Drua, but Toole comes in ahead of them in our team after an excellent attacking performance in the Brumbies’ win against the Rebels. The 23-year-old ran for 122 metres after making 12 runs which included three clean breaks, as many defenders beaten and an offload to go with his two tries.

Australian half-backs

10 Noah Lolesio (Brumbies): Another difficult selection as Damian McKenzie looked superb for the Chiefs in Hamilton before being replaced due to injury, while Tom Lynagh also had some good moments for the Reds in Brisbane. However, Lolesio pips them into our team after pulling the strings superbly for the Reds against the Rebels. Lolesio finished with 113 metres gained from nine runs, which included two clean breaks, three defenders beaten as well as an offload and added two penalties and a couple of conversions.

9 Tate McDermott (Reds): The Wallabies scrum-half was at the forefront of his side’s win over the Waratahs in their Australian derby. McDermott kept the Sydneysiders’ defence on their toes with his sniping breaks while also providing a slick service to his outside backs. He was eventually rewarded with a try for his efforts and beats out Jordie Viljoen of the Hurricanes and the Chiefs’ Xavier Roe to make our side.

8 Hoskins Sotutu (Blues): The All Blacks back-row was one of the Blues’ stars in their triumph over the Drua in Whangarei as he caught the eye with a solid all-round display. The 25-year-old took the fight to his opponents and finished with 35 metres gained, which included 12 carries, one clean break, a defender beaten a couple offloads as well as a brace of tries. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes’ Peter Lakai and Charlie Cale of the Brumbies were next best.

7 Fraser McReight (Reds): In Brisbane, McReight was one of the Reds’ star performers in their clash against their arch rivals, the Waratahs. The Wallaby tearaway was his usual busy self at the breakdown and on defence – where made a team-high 11 hits – but made his biggest impact on attack. The 25-year-old eventually gained 46 metres from 11 runs, which included one defender beaten and a well-taken try. He comes in ahead of the Crusaders’ Tom Christie.

6 Sean Withy (Highlanders): The second Highlander in our team, Withy put in a huge shift against Moana Pasifika and edges out the Brumbies’ Rob Valetini, who was solid against the Rebels. Withy made his mark with an excellent attacking performance as he gained 60 metres from five carries and managed a clean break and beat one defender. He was also lively on defence and finished with 13 tackles made.

Second-row talent

5 Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs): The All Blacks second-row impressed with a solid all-round shift against the Crusaders in Hamilton. Vaa’i impressed in the lineouts, was a willing ball carrier with 28 metres gained from 13 carries, and managed to beat two defenders as well as throwing in an offload. In other action, Wallabies utility forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto had a good game in a losing cause for the Rebels.

4 Isoa Nasilasila (Fijian Drua): In Whangarei, the Drua came off second best in most aspects against the Blues but Nasilasila can be happy with his efforts. The 24-year-old was solid in the execution of his lineout duties but also did his bit with ball in hand and on defence. He eventually finished with 50 metres gained from 10 carries, which included a clean break and an offload as well as seven tackles made.

3 Reuben O’Neill (Chiefs): Although Tamaiti Williams was excellent during a 10-minute stint for the Crusaders, before being replaced due to injury, O’Neill was just a little better for a much longer period. The 29-year-old did what was expected of him in the scrum battle against the Crusaders but also shone with ball in hand as he finished with 41 metres gained from five runs, with one clean break and four defenders beaten.

2 Asafo Aumua (Hurricanes): The dynamic All Blacks hooker hit the ground running for the Hurricanes as they secured a comfortable win over the Western Force in Perth. The 26-year-old was one of the Hurricanes’ main ball carriers and finished with 30 metres gained from seven carries, beating four defenders and also scored a try. He also put his body on the line on defence.

1 Xavier Numia (Hurricanes): The Rebels’ Matt Gibbon was superb in the scrums in their defeat to the Brumbies but it wasn’t enough to pip Numia, who caught the eye with a solid performance for his side in their triumph over the Force. The 25-year-old was solid the scrums and put in a huge defensive shift, eventually making 10 tackles.

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