Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: Resurgent Crusaders lead the way

David Skippers
Super Rugby Pacific TOTW image 1 April 2024.jpg

The Rebels' Filipo Daugunu, George Bell of the Crusaders and the Blues' Stephen Perofeta.

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

Following a poor start to the competition, the Crusaders finally claimed their first victory and they lead the way with five players in our team while the Blues and Hurricanes are next best with three representatives each.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week, Round Six

15 Tom Wright (Brumbies): The Wallabies full-back was in fine form as the Brumbies sealed a narrow win over the Reds in Brisbane. Wright was dangerous on attack as he gained 95 metres from nine runs which included one clean break, six defenders beaten, an offload and two well-taken tries. The Crusaders’ Chay Fihaki and Shaun Stevenson of the Chiefs were next best.

14 Mark Tele’a (Blues): There were fine performances from the Reds’ Jordan Petaia, the Hurricanes’ Josh Moorby and the Fijian Drua’s Selestino Ravutaumada but this selection was easy in the end as Tele’a was one of the best players on display during the round. He completed 90 metres on attack, which included two clean breaks, eight defenders beaten and was rewarded with a hat-trick for his efforts.

13 Filipo Daugunu (Rebels): The former Reds flyer was one of the Rebels’ stars as they claimed a deserved away victory against the Waratahs. Daugunu proved an attacking threat as he gained a team-high 139 metres from 14 runs with three clean breaks, six defenders beaten and an offload and he also crossed or a try. He beats out Iosefo Masi (Fijian Drua), Rieko Ioane (Blues) and Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs).

12 Bryce Heem (Blues): The utility back departed the action due to a head knock in the second half against Moana Pasifika but not before he left his stamp on that match. Heem proved a real threat on attack as he provided plenty of try-scoring opportunities to his team-mates and also scored one of their seven tries in a one-sided victory. He was also solid on defence and comes in ahead of the Crusaders’ Dallas McLeod and Hurricanes’ Jordie Barrett.

11 Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders): In Auckland, Caleb Clarke caught the eye with a strong attacking performance, but it wasn’t enough to come in ahead of McNicholl in our team. The Wales international played a big part in the defending champions’ first win of the season as he scored a brace of tries after completing a whopping 162 metres on attack which included three clean breaks, two defenders beaten and an offload.

10 Stephen Perofeta (Blues): Another Blues player who was forced off the field in the second half due to injury against Moana but, like Heem, he made a big impact before his departure. The All Blacks playmkaker caught the eye with his outstanding playmaking skills, solid goal-kicking and excellent game management. The 27-year-old finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of six conversions and a try and beats out the Brumbies’ Noah Lolesio.

All Blacks legends ‘devastated’ for ‘New Zealand’s Antoine Dupont’ after horror injury

9 Noah Hotham (Crusaders): The Hurricanes’ Cam Roigard and the Rebels’ Ryan Louwrens impressed for their respective teams but it wasn’t enough to get in ahead of Hotham who shone for the Crusaders against the Chiefs. The 20-year-old caught the eye with his slick service to his outside backs but also kept the Chiefs defenders on their toes with his sniping breaks around the fringes of the rucks. Eventually gained 55 metres from six runs which included a clean break and one defender beaten.

The forwards

8 Cullen Grace (Crusaders): This was a tough decision as Brayden Iose also played well for the Hurricanes in their victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin but we’ve opted for Grace, who came to the fore with an outstanding all-round display against the Chiefs in Christchurch. The 24-year-old shone with ball in hand, gaining 53 metres from nine carries which included a clean break, one defender beaten and a deserved try. He was also prominent on defence with 18 tackle completions.

7 Peter Lakai (Hurricanes): The former New Zealand U20 back-row continued with his superb form from previous rounds as he was at the forefront of the Hurricanes’ onslaught against the Highlanders. Lakai proved a handful on attack as he gained 60 attacking metres from 10 carries with one defender beaten, a couple of offloads and a try. The Blues’ Adrian Choat and Fraser McReight of the Reds and Tom Christie of the Crusaders also played well.

6 Lachlan Swinton (Waratahs): Despite finishing on the losing side against the Rebels in Sydney, the Wallabies tearaway caught the eye with a strong all-round performance. The 27-year-old was a willing ball carrier, completing 44 metres from eight carries, which included one clean break, a defender beaten and a try. Swinton also shone on defence with 12 hits and edges out fellow Wallaby Rob Valetini of the Brumbies.

5 Mesake Vocevoce (Fijian Drua): The young lock was one of the Drua’s best players as they continued with their superb home form by beating the Western Force in Lautoka on Saturday. Vocevoce did what was expected of him in the lineouts but also made his mark with ball in hand where he finished with 31 metres gained from nine carries with one defender beaten. Elsewhere, the Crusaders’ Quinten Strange and Brumbies’ Darcy Swain also impressed.

4 Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes): Another excellent performance from the 26-year-old, who was one of the Hurricanes’ best players in their win against the Highlanders. Walker-Leawere was brilliant in the lineouts but made his biggest impact with ball in hand where he finished with 41 metres gained from seven carries, which included two clean breaks and as many offloads. He comes in ahead of the Rebels’ Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

3 Fletcher Newell (Crusaders): The All Blacks tighthead prop was one of the defending champions’ star performers against the Chiefs in Christchurch as he delivered a fine performance. The 24-year-old stood up well in the scrums but made his biggest contribution on defence where he completed 13 tackles. In other action, Sam Talakai of the Rebels and Marcel Renata of the Blues also had good games.

2 George Bell (Crusaders): All Blacks hooker Asafo Aumua was one of the Hurricanes’ best players against the Highlanders but it wasn’t enough to make our team as Bell produced an outstanding individual performance for the champions. The 22-year-old scored an outstanding try and finished with 82 metres gained from 11 carries, which included two clean breaks and three defenders beaten. He also led the way on defence with a match-high 21 tackles made.

1 Xavier Numia (Hurricanes): The 25-year-old is another one of the Hurricanes’ star players in 2024 and played a big part in their undefeated start to Super Rugby Pacific after six rounds of action. Numia was solid in the scrums, and lively with ball in hand and scored his team’s first try against the Highlanders. He was also prominent on defence as he made 10 hits.

READ MORE: Blues count the cost of impressive victory over Moana Pasifika