With the dust having settled on Round Nine of Super Rugby, we have gone through the action to pick out the best players from the weekend.
Team of the Week: Super Rugby, Round Nine
15 Tom Banks (Brumbies): Several full-backs enjoyed solid outings over the weekend including Melani Nanai and milestone man Ben Smith, but Banks was a cut above. With the Wallaby full-back jersey seemingly up for grabs this year, the Brumby is putting his hand up for Test selection. Banks finished with a try for his efforts as his speed off the mark caused the Lions plenty of headaches.
14 Sevu Reece (Crusaders): Scored one and set up another as his campaign goes from strength to strength in Christchurch. His try was a simple finish but that assist was anything but for Mitchell Drummond. After making a break the no-look offload was top drawer. Bravo.
13 Matias Orlando (Jaguares): Stormers centre Ruhan Nel can count himself unlucky to miss out but our first Jaguares player to make the cut is Orlando. The outside centre grabbed a hat-trick in their win over the Sharks in a memorable victory for both player and team.
12 Ma’a Nonu (Blues): Surely he’s now right in the mix for an All Black recall as Nonu continues to back up solid performance after solid performance. His two-try showing against the Chiefs was excellent as he sees off rival Anton Lienert-Brown to our number 12 jersey.
11 Dillyn Leyds (Stormers): Mentions for Rieko Ioane of the Blues and the Crusaders’ Braydon Ennor after their impressive performances, but Leyds gets the nod here for his excellent work in Melbourne. Scored a brilliant opening try early on and then set up Damian de Allende in the second period, showing just what a dangerous player he is. The Stormers will hope this kind of form continues.
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders): A tough call to leave out in-form Jaguares youngster Domingo Miotti after he helped his side hammer the Sharks. But Mo’unga was at his line-threatening best against the Highlanders, causing them all kinds of problems throughout.
9 Tomas Cubelli (Jaguares): While Miotti didn’t make the line-up, his half-back partner was nailed on after he oozed confidence in Durban. Everything the Puma touched turned to gold as his offloads around the ruck had the Sharks guessing. Brad Weber also earns a mention following his busy showing for the Chiefs.
8 Paul Schoeman (Bulls): A real workhorse for the Bulls in their victory over the Reds, Schoeman made 16 carries for a handy 94 metres at Loftus Versfeld. The 26-year-old stood in well in the absence of Duane Vermeulen as he sees off Akira Ioane here.
7 Tom Cusack (Brumbies): Lachlan Boshier picked up a brace in Chiefs colours but the performance of Brumbies back-row Cusack was too good to ignore. The rangy 26-year-old flank put in a workmanlike shift that included 14 tackles and plenty of vocals to boot.
6 Pablo Matera (Jaguares): After Friday’s action Whetu Douglas looked nailed on to don our six jersey but then Matera stepped up on Saturday with an outstanding display. He had everything in his locker against the Sharks, scoring two tries in a superb effort.
5 RG Snyman (Bulls): That was an outstanding comeback from Snyman. Returning from injury the South Africa international was a stand-out for the Bulls. His work in Hanro Liebenberg’s try was a joy to watch in one of 12 carries while he also did his core duties well.
4 Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues): While Brodie Retallick and the Chiefs came out on top in terms of the result, Tuipulotu can hold his head high after an impressive performance in Hamilton. The All Black was busy in the loose and played to his strengths in a fine effort.
3 Michael Alaalatoa (Crusaders): Continues to shine for the Super Rugby holders and was a rock again against the Highlanders. Was strong at the set-piece and made a decent eight carries to boot as he gets in ahead of Stormers front-row Wilco Louw as our tighthead.
2 Folau Fainga’a (Brumbies): When Stephen Moore retired there was some concern about the future of the Brumbies number two jersey. But Fainga’a has silenced any doubters of late with another solid game put in on Saturday. Nathan Harris earns a mention but it’s Fainga’a’s week.
1 Joe Moody (Crusaders): It was noticeable the change in dominance at scrum time when Moody was replaced and that says a lot about his quality at the set-piece. He edges Karl Tu’inukuafe for our final spot, with the Blues man excellent against his old side.