Each week during the first nine rounds of Super Rugby, Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has chosen his NZ Team of the Week. Yesterday, we gave him an endless supply of coffee, an assortment of his favourite biscuits and instructed him to collate those selections to come up with the NZ Team of the First Half of Super Rugby:
“To help me bring this all together, I used the following points allocation - players who were the back or forward of the week three points; two points were given for being selected in the team of the week and one point if a player was mentioned in despatches. In the event of a tie, of which there were two, I used my selectors’ choice (SC) to decide who would be included” – Nigel Yalden
(The figures shown next to the players team are the number of Team of the Week selections)
1. Joe Moody (Crusaders – 3) has produced six consistent, accurate, high quality performances to start this campaign. He’s giving opposition tightheads kittens at scrum time and is getting through plenty of work; he’s yet to miss a tackle this season.
2. Despite being side-lined in recent weeks with injury, Dane Coles (Hurricanes – 2 SC) has already shown why he’s such a key member of his franchise and the national side. The energy and skill has never been better, so too the accuracy of his lineout throwing
** Ricky Riccitelli (Hurricanes) also earned 2 selections
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders – 2 SC), like Coles, has been hindered by injury, but his limited outings have been to his exacting standards. His work in the dark places rarely gets acknowledged, but his ability to shift and stop bodies (one tackle missed all season) in and around the breakdown has been brilliant and his set piece work has been typically top drawer
** Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders) also earned 2 selections
4. Scott Barrett (Crusaders - 4) has being nothing short of superb. With Sam Whitelock sitting out the opening month, Barrett showed in the way in the tight five with combative, physical, skill laden play which he complimented with accuracy in his set piece work
** Forward of the Week in Round 1
5. Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues - 4) has been a flat out beast in the last month of the competition. His ball carries have been some of the most brutal of the season while he’s delivered defence which has been as physical, if not more so. Throw in the wonderful skill set that he’s always possessed and you have a player in career best form
** Forward of the Week in Round 9
6. Shannon Frizell (Highlanders - 4) has made the biggest statement in the battle for the All Blacks number six jersey this season. Everything the selectors are looking for in there blindside flanker – stinging defence, accurate line running, damaging ball carrying, good lineout play, excellent discipline (just one penalty conceded all season) – Frizell has delivered
** Forward of the Week in Round 2
7. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes - 4) is in career best form and playing like man who fully believes in his own talent, skill, strength and endurance while there is a relentlessness to his game which has a very McCaw-esque feel to it
** Forward of the Week in Round 6 & Round 8
8. Luke Whitelock (Highlanders - 3) rarely plays a bad game, and when he does, it’s actually not that bad cos his all round play is so consistent, if not overly spectacular. Others do that flashy stuff, but Whitelock tackles anything moves, takes his lineout ball when called and has improved his ball carrying immensely in the last 12 months.
9. TJ Perenara’s (Hurricanes - 3) desire to win is evident for all to see and while I believe he’s played better rugby in previous seasons, the passion and commitment he brings each and every week cannot be doubted nor undervalued
10. After a slow start to the season, Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders - 5) is in full flow, directing the Crusaders attack with subtly and intelligence. Yes he has an international calibre forward pack front of him but as stated numerous times, he still wrings every last drop out of that superb platform he invariably gets with an ever improving poise, skill and decision making.
11. We all know Rieko Ioane (Blues - 3) can score tries (and some spectacular ones at that) but it’s the depth of his all round game that continues to impress for someone so young. He’s happy to go looking for work yet is rarely caught out of position and the attacking alliance he’s formed with Blues fullback Melani Nanai this season has been lethal
** Back of the Week in Round 6 & 7
12 Ryan Crotty (Crusaders - 3) just keeps on keeping on. While all the talk swirls about which quartet of midfielders will go to the Rugby World Cup, Crotty just rolls up the sleeves, puts his head down and get the job done. Many will appreciate just what this man provides more when he departs the NZ scene at seasons end
** Joint Back of the Week in Round 8 (with Ma’a Nonu)
13. While there is a lot of debate about the combination of midfielders the All Blacks will take to the Rugby World Cup, one thing for sure is that Jack Goodhue (Crusaders - 3) will be one of them. Head and shoulders the best centre in New Zealand and fast developing into one of the best centres in the world game … and how goods that mullet?!
** Back of the Week in Round 4
14. Sevu Reece (Crusaders - 4) has delivered quality in the few opportunities that the Crusaders have given him thus he’s giving Scott Robertson and his fellow Crusaders selectors one of those “good headaches” coaches want to have
15 David Havili (Crusaders - 3) is the one name that hasn’t been mentioned in the who-replaces-Damian-McKenzie discussion. While he doesn’t cover first five, he’s very comfortable stepping into first receiver (as his utility value includes second five and centre requires) is very good under the highball, has an excellent kicking game and an eye for an attacking opportunity as he’s proven through the first eight games of the Crusaders campaign
** Back of the Week in Round 2
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
NB – No team of the week was chosen for round five due to the cancellation of the Crusaders vs Highlanders match following the Christchurch Terror Attack on Friday 15 March 2019
**NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB