Following wins for the Hurricanes and Crusaders, losses for the Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues, the latter tough circumstances beyond the rugby field, and the end minute restrictions for the All Blacks, Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden selects his New Zealand Team of the Week for round three of Super Rugby:
1. Joe Moody (Crusaders) is so far above all other New Zealand loosehead props at the moment, its bordering on disconcerting. His scrumming, lifting, tackling, ball running and clean out work is so strong, so accurate and Saturday night against the Reds was the third consecutive example of that to start the season.
2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes) performance on Friday night was quintessential Dane Coles; getting stuck into the tight stuff yet still popping up in the backline, some delightful skill and getting told off by the referee for running his mouth – all the things that we love to see from Coles
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) – see Joe Moody but substitute “tighthead” for “loosehead”
4. I know the AB selectors see Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders) as a blindside flanker, but geez he looks really good when he plays lock. Easily his best performance of the season thus far, Hemopo was the Highlanders stand out tight forward in Melbourne
5. The try at the end was nice reward for James Blackwell (Hurricanes) but he had already been pencilled in for his industriousness, physicality and accuracy in the 80 minutes prior to the meat pie.
6. Shannon Frizell (Highlanders) continues to see the early season pace in the battle for the All Blacks blindside spot; young man is just tearing into everything and it’s that work rate that is the most impressive aspect of his play to date.
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes) out David Pocock-ed David Pocock on a regular basis Friday night; his quickness at getting over the ball is matched by his strength once he’s in that position with his hands on the ball. His work rate with or without the ball was outstanding too – Forward of the Week
8. Whetu Douglas (Crusaders) is modern day number eight but who brings an old school edge to his play. He was at the coal face from first whistle until last in Brisbane with the most carries of any forward on the park with 12, all of them earning tough metres, and leading the Crusaders tackle count (again) with 13
9. Look past the highlight reel passes that led directly to tries to Coles & Laumape and you’ll see TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) was clearing the ball quickly, sniping when it was on and making his tackles when needed in an accurate and efficient outing
10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) was straight up to speed and that helped the two blokes who play either side of him no end. Calm and controlling, Barrett looked very sharp and even turned over the ball a couple of times in open field play; great first hit out of the season
11. Ben Lam (Hurricanes) was the best of a group of left wings that didn’t have many opportunities but all five starters made the most of the chances they did get. I like how Lam is starting to turnover some ball in the wide channels (two on Friday night) to compliment his overt attacking prowess
12. Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) was an absolute beast on Friday night with the numbers reinforcing what we all saw with our own eyes – 18 carries for 162 metres gained, 6 defenders beaten (crushed probably a more accurate description), 3 clean line break, 3 tries and a turnover to boot – Back of the Week
13. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) was pure class against the Reds, highlighting his wonderful all-round skill set and maturity beyond his 23 years. Alex Nankivell (Chiefs) deserves mention too, coming into the starting fifteen as a late replacement and leaving as the only Chiefs player that could take pride in their own individual performance against the Sunwolves
14. With Manasa Mataele’s season over, we can expect to see plenty of Braydon Ennor (Crusaders) on the right wing for the Crusaders and Saturday night’s high-quality effort in Brisbane tells us that the defending champs will lose nothing because of that injury-enforced change
15. We all saw why Will Jordan (Crusaders) is so highly rated by so many on the weekend. He got involved a lot, showing plenty of speed, skill, accuracy and toughness. Chase Taitia (Hurricanes) was also excellent in his long overdue Super Rugby debut
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
**NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB