With the 18th round of Super Rugby matches now a thing of the past, it is time for us to work out which players shone over the past weekend.
Hurricanes inside centre Ngani Laumape is our standout performer after his try-scoring heroics in his side’s win over the Blues while the Waratahs lead the way with four players in the XV after their thrashing of the Sunwolves.
Super Rugby: Team of Round 18
15 Tom Banks (Brumbies): The speedster was at his electrifying best once again on Saturday, running for a whopping 197 metres against the Chiefs in Hamilton. By far his side’s busiest with ball in hand, Banks made 20 carries from which he beat five defenders with three clean breaks, executed three offloads and was rewarded with a try for his efforts. Beats out a long list of contenders including the Waratahs’ Israel Folau, Jaguares’ Emiliano Boffelli and Reds’ Jono Lance.
14 Jamba Ulengo (Bulls): Bulls coach John Mitchell couldn’t have asked for more from a man making only his second appearance of the season. Ulengo contributed two tries and a try assist, running great lines in support of his team-mates and getting his hands free expertly in the tackle in his side’s win over the Jaguares in Pretoria. Did brilliantly to set up Jonny Kotze’s try, which broke the deadlock for the Bulls. The impressive Filipo Daugunu of the Reds also gets a mention.
13 Jesse Kriel (Bulls): No longer the Springboks’ first-choice outside centre, Kriel looks intent on winning his green and gold jersey back with some eye-catching performances of late. With three tries in his last two games, he has now taken his tally to seven for the season with his latest an opportunistic intercept in which he showcased his breathtaking pace, running coast-to-coast to dot down and crucially give the Bulls the lead going in to the interval against the Jaguares. Comes in ahead of the Crusaders’ Jack Goodhue and Waratahs’ Curtis Rona.
12 Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes): A performance for the books, indeed. Laumape was unstoppable running off the short ball and brutally exposed the Blues’ defensive inadequacies as he grabbed four tries and laid on another for Julian Savea. Is there anyone in world rugby right now better at getting his side over the advantage line? Rieko Ioane also impressed in the same game as well as Charlie Ngatai (Chiefs) and Kurtley Beale (Waratahs).
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs): It was a record-breaking appearance from Naiyaravoro as his brace took him to 14 tries – Eclipsing Israel Folau’s previous franchise record of 12 for most tries in a season. In similar fashion to Ulengo on our opposite wing, Naiyaravoro came away with a brace and try assist – creating Ned Hanigan’s try with a nifty offload while his scores were both magnificent individual efforts as he showed off that destructive hand-off of his and eventually gained an incredible 212 metres on attack. Meanwhile, George Bridge shone for the Crusaders.
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders): Mo’unga showed tremendous heels to get on the end of his own grubber for a wonderful try. But apart from that, the new All Black was the spark that ignited the ‘Saders backline while his kicking display off the tee was immaculate as he landed four penalties and four conversions from nine attempts to go with his try for a 25-point tally. The Waratahs’ Bernard Foley and Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs also caught the eye.
9 Nick Phipps (Waratahs): A talismanic performance to follow up his impressive showing for the Wallabies in their last fixture has got some wondering whether Phipps has finally added the touch of consistency that has sorely been lacking from his game. Phipps was everywhere on Saturday, as he set up two tries and grabbed another. Comes in ahead of the Chiefs’ Brad Weber and Embrose Papier of the Bulls.
8 Michael Wells (Waratahs): Amanaki Mafi (Rebels), Hanro Liebenberg (Bulls) and Akira Ioane (Blues) all played well but it’s Wells who gets the nod after impressing in his team’s demolition of the Sunwolves in Sydney. Wells did his bit with ball in hand and was rewarded with a try for his efforts but also put in some big hits on defence and eventually made seven tackles.
7 Sam Henwood (Hurricanes): While his flashier team-mates, like Ngani Laumape, were making the headlines, Henwood was going about his business in a quiet but effective manner but his efforts did not go unnoticed as he makes our team after a solid shift. Henwood was particularly impressive on defence and made a match-high 23 tackles and beats out Reds tearaway Liam Wright, who also played well against the Rebels.
6 Luke Jacobson (Chiefs): The 21-year-old makes our team for the second week in a row after another fine performance in the two-time champions’ victory over the Brumbies in Hamilton. Jacobson did his bit as a ball carrier but it was his defensive showing which caught the eye and he finished with an impressive 16 hits. Pablo Matera and Pieter-Steph du Toit also played well for the Jaguares and Stormers respectively.
5 Cobus Wiese (Stormers): The young utility forward played in the number four jersey in his side’s derby win over the Sharks in Cape Town but comes into our team in the number five slot after a superb all-round shift. Wiese carried well and was rewarded for a try for his efforts but also did well on defence with nine tackles and cleaned out the rucks with great intensity. Waratahs veteran Rob Simmons and RG Snyman of the Bulls also impressed.
4 Izack Rodda (Reds): Continues to grow with each passing game and played a leading role in his side’s victory over the Rebels in Brisbane. The 21-year-old was at the forefront of his side’s forward effort and did well on attack gaining 29 metres from five carries with two clean breaks, one defender beaten and scored a try for his efforts. The Wallaby comes in ahead of Scott Barrett of the Crusaders and Jed Holloway of the Waratahs.
3 Sekope Kepu (Waratahs): The Wallaby front-row was in fine form in his side’s one-sided victory against the Sunwolves and started his side’s onslaught by scoring the first of their 12 tries in that encounter. Kepu did well with ball in hand and gained 31 metres from seven runs with one clean break, a defender beaten and also managed two offloads. Also looked good in the scrums and made six hits on defence. Beats out Taniela Tupou of the Reds and the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit.
2 Andrew Makalio (Crusaders): Made a rare start for the champions but made full use of his opportunity in his side’s win against the Highlanders in Christchurch. Makalio made his presence felt on attack gaining 26 metres from eight runs with one clean break, a defender beaten and a fine offload from which Scott Barrett scored a try. The Chiefs’ Nathan Harris and Jaguares veteran Agustin Creevy were next best.
1 JP Smith (Reds): Was one of the Reds’ heroes and delivered a solid performance as they claimed bragging rights in their derby win over the Rebels. Smith came to the fore with a fine performance at the coalface of his side’s forward effort especially in the scrums where he put in a solid shift. Also did well on defence with seven tackles and edges out double centurion Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders and Pierre Schoeman of the Bulls.