With the fourteenth round of Super Rugby’s matches now a thing of the past, it is time for us to work out which players shone over the past weekend.
The Hurricanes and Jaguares lead the way with three representatives apiece in our team after their wins over the Reds and Bulls respectively while the rest of our XV has a healthy spread from various teams.
Super Rugby: Team of Round 14
15 Israel Folau (Waratahs): The controversial back has now scored seven tries in his last six matches against New Zealand opposition, bagging three braces in that time with another double on the weekend as he beat five defenders for 78 metres from 13 carries with five clean breaks in his side’s 41-12 dismantling of a 14-man Highlanders outfit. Just edges out Brumbies full-back Tom Banks, who scored two brilliant tries in a losing cause as his side were well beaten by the Lions in the end.
14 Rieko Ioane (Blues): Sublime on return to his favourite position, having predominantly featured at inside centre for the Blues this campaign. Ioane had a hand in four five-pointers, with two of his own and two try assists as he wreaked havoc among the Crusaders’ defence, skinning a weekend-high nine defenders. Although he played on the left wing at the weekend, we felt his performance made it impossible to leave him out. Meanwhile, Bautista Delguy bagged a brace in the Jaguares’ 54-24 demolition of the Bulls.
13 Curtis Rona (Waratahs): The former NRL star is having an impressive season at centre, having been deployed only at wing for the Wallabies. The 25-year-old was a creative force for his side with his all-round skill set, hard running and great offloading game coming to the fore on the weekend. Rona had a hand in three tries, scoring one and creating two others as he also made four tackle busts and four clean breaks from 14 carries. Beats out the Jaguares’ Matias Orlando and Sharks’ Lukhanyo Am.
12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Lions): Looked like the Rohan of old in the Lions’ victory over the Brumbies. Regularly got his side over the advantage line from his 14 carries and showed great upper body strength to power over for his try. Should have had a second but unfortunately could not hold on to a difficult pass with the coast clear. Meanwhile, Sonny Bill Williams did everything he could to carry his Blues’ team to an upset over the Crusaders but was unlucky to be on the losing side in the end.
11 Ben Lam (Hurricanes): His first try in which he held the ball in one hand while holding off two Reds’ defenders for 15 metres was a masterclass in finishing while his second wasn’t too bad either, as he stood up Filipo Daugunu before expertly finishing in the corner. Should have had his third hat-trick of the season were it not for his over-nonchalant one-handed attempted dot-down. Comes in ahead of the Tahs’ Taqele Naiyaravoro and the Jags’ Sebastian Cancelliere.
10 Hayden Parker (Sunwolves): The second week in a row the former New Zealand U20 representative makes it into the team and for good reason. While the previous round’s performance against the Reds was impressive, the fly-half’s contribution was arguably even more important on Saturday against the Stormers in Hong Kong. Parker once again scored a try and kicked superbly off the tee but the pivot’s drop-goal, when the clock had passed 80, won the game for the Sunwolves, meaning he edges out Nicolas Sanchez (Jaguares) and Bernard Foley (Waratahs).
9 Gonzalo Bertranou (Jaguares): It was a hugely impressive performance from the Argentinians at the weekend and, while much of it stemmed from the effort up front, Sanchez and Bertranou worked wonderfully in tandem. It is a partnership which has done so well during their excellent recent run and it was on top form against the Bulls. Even by Super Rugby standards, the Jaguares used to be a bit too loose but, under the guidance of Mario Ledesma, they have reined it in slightly. Bertranou has thrived as a result, making 42 metres and creating two tries against the Bulls on Saturday, and duly takes his place ahead of the Crusaders’ Bryn Hall in the XV.
8 Blade Thomson (Hurricanes): The Scarlets have made an astute signing in the versatile back-five forward and the former Maori All Black showed his quality in the ‘Canes triumph over the Reds. The number eight carried hard throughout and was rewarded with a try just shy of the interval as the Wellington outfit kept pace with the Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand Conference. Speaking of the Christchurch outfit, Jordan Taufua was close to claiming the spot after his performance versus the Blues, but Thomson just shaded the All Blacks’ newcomer.
7 Marcos Kremer (Jaguares): Many see the Argentine’s best position at lock but the 20-year-old has featured mostly on the flank for the franchise in 2018 and has duly excelled. Saturday’s effort against the Bulls was arguably his best for the Jaguares with the South Africans struggling to handle Kremer’s physicality in the loose. He ran for 44 metres from 16 carries, made three clean breaks and beat five defenders in a hugely impressive individual outing as he took the position from Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) and Michael Hooper (Waratahs).
6 Michael Leitch (Sunwolves): As Chiefs’ supporters well know, the flanker is an excellent player and the blindside was in superb form as the Sunwolves defeated the Stormers. Leitch is always industrious and that was demonstrated by his work against the Cape Town-based outfit. The back-row carried well and, despite the Japanese outfit controlling possession and territory, the 29-year-old also made his tackles when he needed to.
5 Sam Lousi (Hurricanes): Another former NRL player in our team, the 26-year-old caught the eye with an excellent all-round effort in a tightly contested encounter against the Reds in Wellington. Lousi was a willing ball carrier who gained 26 metres from 12 runs with two clean breaks, three defenders beaten, two offloads and also scored a deserved try. Also made seven tackles on defence and comes in ahead of Grant Hattingh of the Sunwolves.
4 Lourens Erasmus (Lions): The Lions were made to work hard before seeing off the Brumbies in Johannesburg and Erasmus led the way with a superb performance up front. The young second-row was superb in the lineouts and finished with eight takes in the set-piece, but also carried with great intent and was rewarded with a well-taken try. Also did his bit on defence with eight hits and beats out Crusaders enforcer Scott Barrett.
3 Taniela Tupou (Reds): The Tongan Thor was in superb form in his side’s defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington and was one of the standout performers in that fixture. Showed great determination and leg drive when scoring a try and played a prominent role with a barnstorming run in the build-up to Jordan Petaia’s try. Tupou eventually gained 43 metres on attack from six carries with five defenders beaten. A shoo-in for the Wallabies’ number three jersey against Ireland in June. Makes our team ahead of Thomas du Toit of the Sharks.
2 Agustin Creevy (Jaguares): The veteran number two was one of the men from Buenos Aires’ heroes in their demolition of the Bulls and was at the forefront of a fine forward effort from his side. Creevy was solid in the tight phases but also did well as a ball carrier and eventually gained 25 metres from 19 runs which included one defender beaten and a trademark offload. The Lions’ Robbie Coetzee also impressed.
1 Trevor Nyakane (Bulls): The Bulls might have lost to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, but Nyakane is one player from the Pretoria-based outfit whose stocks are continuing to rise after he delivered another busy shift at the coalface. Made our team on the other side of the scrum last week and showed his versatility by moving to the loosehead and still impressing. Scrummed well and was superb on defence with 16 hits. JC Janse van Rensburg of the Stormers also played well.