With the third round of Super Rugby’s fixtures now a thing of the past, it’s time to work out which players excelled over the weekend.
The Crusaders lead the way with five representatives in our team after their win over the Stormers while the Lions are next best with three players and the rest of our XV has a healthy spread from various teams.
15 David Havili (Crusaders): The full-back flourishes from turnover ball and was instrumental as the Crusaders employed a counter-attacking game, pouncing on the mistakes of the Stormers in Christchurch. Havili made 112 metres from his 10 carries with 5 defenders beaten. Elsewhere, Dane Haylett-Petty shone for the Rebels with a solid, all-round display which included a try.
14 Jack Maddocks (Rebels): The 21-year-old scored a scintillating hat-trick and set up a try against the Sunwolves, making our team ahead of Crusaders’ Seta Tamanivalu, who was a threat to the Stormers defence every time he got the ball, beating five defenders from his 10 carries for 75 metres and scoring a try. Meanwhile, Julian Savea beat seven defenders in his side’s win over the Jaguares.
13 Lukhanyo Am (Sharks): Am seriously put his hand up for Springbok selection here, scoring a wonderful brace, showcasing his excellent support play and intelligent running lines, beating four defenders from 86 metres. Meanwhile, Jack Goodhue appears to be thriving in his defensive role alongside Ryan Crotty as he made 15 tackles for the Crusaders and marshalled his channel superbly.
12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Lions): The pacey centre is hitting his straps once again as he beat five Bulls defenders on Saturday, making 77 metres with two clean breaks. Could Janse van Rensburg and Am be the new Bok pairing? Certainly wouldn’t be a bad combination. Ngani Laumape scored a try for the Hurricanes as he got over the advantage line regularly, beating three defenders and making two clean breaks for 39 metres.
11 George Bridge (Crusaders): Bridge scored two exceptionally well-taken tries on the weekend. After receiving a hospital pass from Richie Mo’unga millimetres from the left touchline, the Crusaders winger showed excellent balance to produce a classy one-handed finish for his first try. His second was pure poacher’s instinct. Solomon Alaimalo gets a mention for his five defenders beaten for 137 metres gained from 12 carries.
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders): Delivered another brilliant effort on attack especially in the first half in the eight-time champions’ victory over the Stormers. He played the playmaker role to perfection and set up try-scoring opportunities for several of his team-mates with his impressive skill-set. Mo’unga finished with a 15-point haul courtesy of a try and five conversions and beats out the Lions’ Elton Jantjies, who also shone against the Bulls.
9 Bryn Hall (Crusaders): The 26-year-old has firmly entrenched himself as the Crusaders’ first-choice scrum-half and judging from his efforts against the Stormers, it will be difficult to take his place in the champions’ run-on side. Hall combined brilliantly with Mo’unga and his slick service from the base gave his fly-half plenty of time and space on the ball. Hall also scored a try against the Stormers after gaining 35 metres from three runs with one clean break and a defender beaten. Brad Weber of the Chiefs and Ross Cronje of the Lions also played well.
8 Amanaki Mafi (Rebels): The Japan international is continuing where left off in 2017 – when he was named the Rebels’ Player of the Year – and was once again his team’s go-to-man in their victory against the Sunwolves in Tokyo. Mafi gained 69 metres from 12 carries with two clean breaks, one defender beaten and also managed an offload. Was rewarded with a try for his efforts and pips the Blues’ Akira Ioane and Warren Whiteley of the Lions.
7 Sam Cane (Chiefs): Showed once again why is New Zealand’s number one openside flank with a polished all-round display in a keenly-contested derby with the Blues at Eden Park. Cane’s high work-rate gets him into our team for the second successive week and like last week, he crossed the whitewash again. Also caught the eye on defence with 11 tackles and comes in ahead of Waratahs captain Michael Hooper.
6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes): This was a tough decision to make as the Crusaders’ Pete Samu and Cobus Wiese of the Stormers also impressed in their showdown in Christchurch but the Hurricanes captain gets the nod after a superb shift in hostile surroundings against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. The Wasps-bound back-row led from the front particularly on defence where he made a team-high 15 tackles.
5 Kane Douglas (Reds): Part of an outstanding front five effort for the Queensland outfit as they put the Brumbies under severe pressure up front. Controlled the lineout and, with Brad Thorn as his head coach, Douglas will continue to benefit from the New Zealander’s tutelage. Douglas was also excellent in defence, making 10 tackles, as he edged out the Lions’ Marvin Orie and Crusaders’ Sam Whitelock.
4 Scott Barrett (Crusaders): Not too many teams can live with the Christchurch-based side when they are on form and the Stormers had little answer to the hosts in the first half. Barrett was once again ubiquitous, showing his all-court skills in the opening period and helping them to dominate the set-piece. The 24-year-old then displayed his defensive qualities in the second and third quarter as the South Africans began to gain more possession, making 15 tackles in all. His opposite number, JD Schickerling, also showed up well but unfortunately picked up an injury late in the game which will keep him out for most of the season.
3 Taniela Tupou (Reds): There is no reason why the man nicknamed ‘Tongan Thor’ cannot be Australia’s long-term solution at tighthead after yet another impressive display. Excellent with ball in hand, the Reds’ prop ran for an impressive 29 metres, while he also showed his adeptness in the set-piece, dominating opposite number Ben Alexander. Ruan Dreyer of the Lions came close and Wilco Louw was one of the few positives for the Stormers, but Tupou deserves the position.
2 Malcolm Marx (Lions): The South African outfit play some outstanding rugby but they also boast a formidable forward eight and, for the third match in a row, they dominated up front. The Johannesburg-based franchise scored three tries from mauls, with the Bulls having no answer to the organisation and power of the visiting pack. Nathan Harris (Chiefs) produced a good display in Auckland on Friday but Marx has continued his fine form from last season.
1 Jacques van Rooyen (Lions): Another Lions player to make the front row but unsurprising considering their dominance in the set-piece. Whether at the scrum or maul, the visitors controlled proceedings against the Bulls with van Rooyen, Marx and Dreyer forming a superb unit. New South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus could do worse than select them for the Springboks when England tour in June, despite the loosehead being the wrong side of 30.