Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: Hurricanes’ All Blacks star and hopefuls lead the way

David Skippers
Super Rugby Pacific TOTW QF image 2024.jpg

Andy Muirhead of the Brumbies, Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs, Devan Flanders of the Hurricanes and Dalton Papali'i of the Blues.

Following the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final action, Planet Rugby breaks down the star performers from a thrilling weekend of rugby.

All the last-eight winners are well represented but the Hurricanes lead the way with four representatives in our team while the Brumbies Chiefs and Blues have three players apiece in the XV.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week, Quarter-finals

15 Tom Wright (Brumbies): The Wallaby continued with his outstanding recent form in the Brumbies’ victory over the Highlanders in Canberra. Although he did not cross for a try, Wright proved dangerous on attack as he gained a match-high 90 metres from a whopping 16 runs which included three clean breaks and six defenders beaten. The Hurricanes’ Harry Godfrey was next best.

14 Andy Muirhead (Brumbies): In Hamilton, the Chiefs’ Emoni Narawa had a good game in his side’s triumph over the Reds while Mark Tele’a also looked dangerous in the Blues’ win against the Fijian Drua, but Muirhead’s contribution in the Brumbies’ victory over the Highlanders cannot be ignored. The 30-year-old showed off his finishing skills by crossing for a couple of tries with his second one particularly impressive.

13 Billy Proctor (Hurricanes): There were good performances from the Brumbies’ Wallaby Len Ikitau and experienced All Blacks duo Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane for the Chiefs and Blues respectively but Proctor gets in ahead of them after a fine outing in the Hurricanes’ win over the Melbourne Rebels in Wellington. He was superb with ball in hand as he kept the Rebels defence on their toes and created some try-scoring opportunities for his team-mates.

12 Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes): The Hurricanes cruised to victory against the Rebels and Barrett led the way for the home side with an outstanding all-round performance. The 27-year-old’s brilliance on attack created several try-scoring opportunities for his team-mates and the Rebels battled to keep him in check. Barrett finished with 56 metres gained from 10 runs with two clean breaks and beat seven defenders. In other action, the Chiefs’ Rameka Poihipi also caught the eye.

11 Caleb Clarke (Blues): The All Blacks wing led the Blues’ onslaught as they got the better of the Fijian Drua at Eden Park. Clarke was constantly looking for work and finished the game with 54 metres gained after making 10 runs which included three clean breaks, four defenders beaten and he was rewarded with a brace of tries for his efforts. He beats out the Chiefs’ Etene Nanai-Seturo and the Brumbies’ Corey Toole.

10 Damian McKenzie (Chiefs): The 29-year-old gave New Zealand head coach Scott Robertson another reminder that he is the right man for the All Blacks’ number 10 jersey as he pulled the strings in the Chiefs’ backline during their win over the Reds. Apart from being dangerous on attack, McKenzie was solid off the kicking tee, as he finished with a 13-point haul, and also shone on defence where he made 13 tackles.

9 Tate McDermott (Reds): The Reds were totally outplayed in most departments against the Chiefs but despite that McDermott never surrendered and continued to take the fight to his opponents during a 70-minute stint on the field. In the end, the Wallaby finished with 38 metres gained from six runs which included two clean breaks, three defenders beaten and he scored two tries. The Blues’ Finlay Christie also impressed.

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Good mix among the forwards

8 Brayden Iose (Hurricanes): There were fine performances from the Chiefs’ Wallace Sititi, the Blues’ Hoskins Sotutu and the Brumbies’ Charlie Cale but Iose gets the nod as he was one of the Hurricanes star performers in Wellington. The 25-year-old shone on attack as he scored a well-taken try after gaining 109 metres from 11 carries and beat three defenders.

7 Dalton Papali’i (Blues): In Hamilton, Chiefs skipper Luke Jacobson played well while Hurricanes tearaway Peter Lakai also shone in Wellington but Papali’i is our choice after he caught the eye with a superb all-round performance against the Drua in Auckland. The All Blacks flanker got the ball rolling by scoring their first try but also put in a huge defensive shift by making a match-high 19 tackles and also won two turnovers.

6 Devan Flanders (Hurricanes): All Blacks duo Samipeni Finau and Akira Ioane put in huge shifts for the Chiefs and Blues respectively while Wallabies star Rob Valetini also impressed for the Brumbies but Flanders was one of the Hurricanes’ best performers against the Rebels. The 24-year-old was superb with ball in hand, gaining 52 metres and crossed for a deserved try.

5 Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs): The 24-year-old continued with his excellent form and will be crucial to the All Blacks’ cause in the mid-year Tests following the loss of Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu to injury. Vaa’i was solid in the lineouts and did well as a ball carrier, as he gained 28 metres from seven carries including a clean break and two defenders beaten. Adding to that, Vaa’i also shone on defence as he made 17 tackles.

4 Tom Hooper (Brumbies): His preferred position is on the blindside flank but the Wallaby was shifted to the second-row and came to the fore with an outstanding display in his side’s triumph over the Highlanders. The 23-year-old was solid in the lineouts but also made his mark on attack as he gained 23 metres from 10 carries but made his biggest impact on defence as he completed a team-high 19 tackles.

3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Blues): The Highlanders’ Jermaine Ainsley was one of his team’s best performers against the Brumbies and had a strong display in the scrums but misses out to All Blacks stalwart Tu’ungafasi, who we’ve shifted to the tighthead after packing down at loosehead. The 32-year-old stood up well in the scrums and was a willing ball carrier but made his biggest contribution on defence where he made 14 tackles.

2 Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs): This was a tough choice as fellow All Black Asafo Aumua of the Hurricanes, Billy Pollard and Ricky Riccitelli of the Blues all played well but Taukei’aho makes our team due to a superb all-round showing. Apart from being rewarded with a brace of tries, after shining on attack, he also delivered a fine defensive effort and eventually made 16 tackles.

1 Ethan de Groot (Highlanders): Although the Highlanders came off second best in most facets of play against the Brumbies, they held the upper-hand in the scrums where De Groot dominated his direct duel against youngster Harry Vella. The All Black put his team on the front foot with some strong shoves at the set-piece but also did his bit as a ball carrier and and on defence where he made 12 hits.

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