With the ninth round of Super Rugby now a thing of the past, it is time for us to figure out which players shone over the past weekend.
The Bulls and Waratahs both registered impressive derby victories and lead the way with three representatives apiece in our team,while the Hurricanes, Jaguares and Blues are next best with two players each.
Super Rugby: Team of Round Nine
15 Warrick Gelant (Bulls): Another hugely impressive performance by the Bulls player, who scored a hat-trick as his side thrashed the Sharks in Durban. He set them on their way by touching down twice in the opening eight minutes before deservedly crossing for his third just shy of full-time. There were some excellent displays from the New Zealand full-backs, with Ben Smith (Highlanders) and Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes) putting their hands up, but Gelant’s form is too good to ignore.
14 Jordan Hyland (Blues): A superb way for the wing to mark his first start in Super Rugby by scoring twice in the Auckland-based outfit’s 24-10 victory over the Sunwolves. Tana Umaga would have no doubt feared a repeat of last season’s heavy defeat to the Japanese outfit when they went 10-0 down, but Hyland’s opening try got them back into the contest. Umaga’s men then proceeded to control proceedings, with the right wing a constant threat, and Hyland secured the win four minutes from time. Ramiro Moyano did well for the Jaguares and Waisake Naholo was excellent for the Highlanders but, having run for 100 metres with four clean breaks, the Blues man deserves his spot.
13 Curtis Rona (Waratahs): The former rugby league player has had a decent start to the season but this was quite comfortably his best individual display so far in 2018. The Reds on Saturday failed to handle the centre’s power and pace, with the back running for 79 metres and beating seven defenders, as the Waratahs’ attack continued its fine form. Rona fended off competition from Rob Thompson, who was once again impressive in the Highlanders’ triumph over the Brumbies and Blues youngster Orbyn Leger.
12 Teihorangi Walden (Highlanders): Despite Thompson being beaten to the 13 slot by Rona, his centre partner does get in after scything through the Brumbiess defence with regularity in Dunedin. In total, the Highlanders player broke the line three times and made 64 metres in attack. Walden was similarly excellent in defence by making nine tackles without missing, in a performance which saw him edge out the Blues’ Rieko Ioane and the Hurricanes’ Ngani Laumape.
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs): Arguably the standout back in Super Rugby this year, it seems remarkable that the 26-year-old has only garnered two caps for Australia. It is unlikely that he will add to that in 2018 either with the Fijian-born wing agreeing a move to Northampton Saints, but the back three player will no doubt play a vital role in the rest of the Waratahs’ season. Naiyaravoro was at his rampaging best against the Reds, running for 185 metres, making six clean breaks and touching down twice. Incredible stats and the reason why he takes the position from the Hurricanes’ Ben Lam, who was again outstanding at the weekend.
10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes): The Chiefs will be desperate to see the back of Beauden Barrett, who has been their chief tormentor in recent years. His try against them on Saturday, in which he scooped up a loose ball off the ground expertly before getting his grubber kick through, was a terrific effort, while his cross-field kick to set up Ngani Laumape’s try was ingenious. Meanwhile, the Jaguares’ Nicolas Sanchez and Waratahs’ Bernard Foley also impressed.
9 Will Genia (Rebels): Continued his rich form which sees him comfortably topping the Super Rugby charts for most try assists as he made a further two against the Jaguares on Saturday. Also gained 47 metres on attack and beat five defenders in the process. When he plays well, so do the Rebels. Unlucky to be on the losing side. Beats out the Highlanders’ Aaron Smith, who engineered the breakdown area with calm efficiency and fluidity.
8 Akira Ioane (Blues): The rangy loose forward took his try tally to seven from seven for the season, joint second on the Super Rugby try-scoring charts, after another fine effort against the Sunwolves in Tokyo. Ioane was a one man wrecking ball, beating eight defenders from 16 barnstorming carries and gaining an impressive 61 metres. Elsewhere, Michael Wells was in fantastic form for the Waratahs and deserves a mention.
7 David Pocock (Brumbies): It is the third week running the great fetcher features in our Team of the Week after another brave display in a losing cause against the Highlanders. As usual, he was a constant nuisance at the breakdown, effecting several turnovers while his offensive and defensive display was of the highest order. Edges out the Jaguares’ Marcos Kremer, who put in a solid shift against the Rebels.
6 Pablo Matera (Jaguares): Another inspirational performance from the captain and one of Argentina’s prized assets. Made 15 hits and 11 carries on defence and gained 58 metres with two defenders beaten in a typically industrious performance. The Sharks’ Jean-Luc du Preez was once again a menace on attack with three offloads and four defenders beaten from 15 carries against the Bulls.
5 Lood de Jager (Bulls): The Springbok second-row led the Bulls’ forward charge in a deserved win over the Sharks in Durban. De Jager delivered a superb all-round performance which is reminiscent of the form which saw him winning South Africa’s Player of the Year award in 2015. Gained 20 metres against the Sharks and led the way on defence for the Bulls with a team-high 17 tackles. Comes in ahead of Tom Franklin of the Highlanders.
4 Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes): The All Black was a constant threat with ball in hand in his side’s victory over the Chiefs in Wellington. Fifita carried well and eventually finished gained 49 metres from six runs with one clean break, a defender beaten and also managed two offloads. Edges out Guido Petti of the Jaguares, who played well in his side’s win over the Rebels.
3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Jaguares): Played a leading role in his team’s come-from-behind victory over the Rebels in Melbourne. The 28-year-old was at the forefront of the Jaguares’ forward effort especially on defence and eventually made 12 hits. Also scrummed well and beats out the Bulls’ Trevor Nyakane and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes.
2 Damien Fitzpatrick (Waratahs): The Waratahs forwards deserve plenty of credit for their win against the Reds and Fitzpatrick special praise after delivering an impressive shift at the coalface. Fitzpatrick was particularly impressive on defence and made 18 tackles but also contributed on attack and gained 29 metres from seven carries with one clean break. Bulls veteran Adriaan Strauss also impressed.
1 Pierre Schoeman (Bulls): Another Bulls forward who caught the eye with a fine all-round showing in their victory over the Sharks. The Edinburgh-bound front-row did well in his core duties but was particularly impressive in defence and completed seven tackles. Brumbies hardman Scott Sio and Tom Robertson of the Waratahs also caught the eye.