Now that the dust has settled after Round 15 of Super Rugby, we select the players that stood out over the weekend.
Once again the Chiefs and the Hurricanes have set the benchmark for performance so it's no surprise to see six of their players in our weekly XV.
A return to winning ways for the South African teams also means they have a strong contingent in our side, unlike last week, with the Stormers leading the way.
Super Rugby Team of the Week: Round 15
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders): The best player on the park in Perth, Smith brought up his 100th Super Rugby game in style. Whether through his tactical kicking, his reliability under the high ball or invention in attack, there are few better full-backs on the planet. 13 carries for over 100 metres, while he skipped past defenders. A mention for Israel Folau after his two assists and nine defenders beaten against the Crusaders.
14 Dillyn Leyds (Stormers): Two tries for the wing and a Man of the Match award as the Stormers returned to the top of the South African Conference. Waratahs powerhouse wing Taqele Naiyaravoro also scored twice, but he misses out on a spot in our team since it was his mistake that handed the Crusaders their early try.
13 Ray Lee-Lo (Hurricanes): The Samoan had big boots to fill when he came into the Hurricanes' starting line-up as Conrad Smith's replacement but was one of the star performers in the victory over the Blues. Lee-Lo was a willing ball-carrier in atrocious weather conditions in Auckland but still gained 51 metres in the process. Also made two clean breaks with two defenders beaten and three offloads, one of which was the final pass in the build-up to Nehe Milner-Skudder's try. Lions stalwart Lionel Mapoe also looked good in his side's win over the Cheetahs.
12 Samu Kerevi (Reds): Probably the Reds’ best back this season, Kerevi added another try to his tally for the year and was a constant threat for the Sharks defence. His stats speak for themselves – 17 carries, just shy of 100 metres, a couple of clean breaks with 10 defenders beaten and four offloads. Maybe it’s time the Wallabies took notice. A mention for Jan Serfontein of the Bulls, who scored one try and created another.
11 Rob Horne (Waratahs): Another solid outing from the Waratahs speedster as all three in the Waratahs back three looked dangerous on attack. Horne made 100 metres on attack, with three clean breaks, two defenders beaten and four offloads. Also did well on defence with 10 tackles made. Beats out Crusaders try machine Nemani Nadolo.
10 Damien McKenzie (Chiefs): No Cruden? No problem. McKenzie is starting to deliver on his potential and had a storming game for the Chiefs in their win over the Bulls last Friday. McKenzie’s passing and kicking game are first-rate but it’s his threat with the ball in hand that makes him so special, as he clocked up 21 carries and nearly 150 metres in Rotorua. Also made an assist and 11 tackles, with no misses. He edges out Bernard Foley.
9 Augustine Pulu (Chiefs): It was a very tough call to overlook Lions scrum-half Faf de Klerk, who was amazing in Bloemfontein but Pulu, who scored two tries for the Chiefs, put in arguably the performance of the weekend as the Bulls were sent packing.
8 Duane Vermeulen (Stormers): They call the hulking Springbok number eight "Thor" in Cape Town these days and it's not surprising given the impact he makes whenever he carries the ball up. In wet conditions at Newlands, his power played a huge part in the Stormers pack dominating the Rebels.
7 Jaco Kriel (Lions): Is back to his best after struggling to hold down a regular place in the Lions' starting line-up earlier this year but on the evidence of the his performance in his side's victory over the Cheetahs, Kriel is now one of the first names on coach Johan Ackermann's teamsheet. The flank was rewarded with a try for his efforts, winning 46 metres with ball in hand. Edges out Marcelle Coetzee who impressed in the Sharks' win over the Reds.
6 Liam Messam (Chiefs): A great shift from the Chiefs captain on Friday, as he got his side underway with an early try before carrying and tackling hard throughout. 12 runs and nine stops though don’t tell the story about how much he inspires his side on a weekly basis. Warwick Tecklenburg was close for this spot but misses out, despite 22 tackles against the Cheetahs.
5 Victor Matfield (Bulls): Although the Bulls went down to the Chiefs in Rotorua, Matfield impressed with a solid all-round performance. The veteran was as usual superb in the line-outs, winning five balls at the set-piece but also put his body on the line with 15 tackles.
4 Ross Filipo (Chiefs): Forget his stats (which coincidentally aren’t bad), Filipo was in semi-retirement and watched the side play the Hurricanes on his couch with a beer the week before answering the Chiefs' SOS. Injuries to Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Michael Allardice and Mike Fitzgerald led to the 36-year-old helping out his old side. What an effort.
3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Hurricanes): Made a rare start in the Hurricanes' front-row but caught the eye with a solid shift at the coalface of the tabletoppers' forward effort. Toomaga-Allen was solid in the scrums, cleaned out the rucks with great intensity and also defended well. Beats out Stormers stalwart Frans Malherbe.
2 Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks): Ending a six-game losing streak was a nice present for the Bok hooker on his 31st birthday. Without having to worry about leading his team, Du Plessis is back to his best having served his time on the sidelines. 14 tackles, a lot of ground made with ball in hand and some serious damage down at the breakdown in his best performance of the year. A mention too for Dane Coles of the Hurricanes.
1 Steven Kitshoff (Stormers): The Stormers scrum hammered the Rebels. Kitshoff has been excellent all year and put in another big shift on defence, making ten hits, which is a decent return for a propm. A mention for Chris Eves, who scored for the Hurricanes.