By Nigel Yalden.
The return of Super Rugby brings with it many things.
Amongst that is the re-emergence of Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden’s caffeine infused NZ Team of the Week.
So after watching the Chiefs finish over the top of the Blues, the Crusaders outclass the Waratahs and the Hurricanes draw a blank against the Stormers, he sat down to make his first selections of season 2020:
1. Aidan Ross (Chiefs) put in a well-rounded 80 minutes performance, holding up his side of the scrum and was active in tight, with and without the ball.
2. Just like his loosehead prop, Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs) had to go deep into the opening game of the season, but showed himself capable of putting in a long shift. Lineout throwing still a little shaky, but hard to fault the rest of his play.
3. Oli Jager (Crusaders) had himself an industrious evening in Nelson and it will be interesting to see how he develops with some regular playing time this season PS outstanding moustache young man.
4. Mitch Brown (Chiefs) tackled anything that ran out him wearing blue (a match high 21) and whilst he didn’t carry much, his cleanout work was outstanding as was ability to get around the field.
5. As he did last season, Tom Robinson (Blues) ran out of the shed and just ploughed into everything with great gusto and accuracy. It’s easy to understand why so many people see him as a future All Black.
6. With or without the ball Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs) provided so many key plays on Friday nights. He played with intelligent physicality, with the timing of the turnovers he won especially influential in the outcome of that contest – FORWARD OF THE WEEK
7. Tom Christie (Crusaders) was up against one of the best openside flankers in the world and he rose to that challenge. He was excellent defensively, snaffled a couple of tidy turnovers and was omni-present around the field, just like the bloke who wore that jersey previously.
8. Hoskins Sotutu (Blues) showed exactly why he was chosen on form to start ahead of Akira Ioane with impressive ball carrying, robust defence and excellence skills at the back of the scrum from first whistle to last.
9. Mitchell Drummond (Crusaders) was the most efficient of the kiwi halfbacks.
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) was the personification of class from the moment the whistle blew for the second half at Eden Park. He never looked flustered or overawed, which tends to happen when you have been there before; a step above the other kiwi first five on display this weekend.
11. Rieko Ioane (Blues) was sharp, physical, incisive and looked very fast in a performance that would have put an early season grim on the face of the All Black selectors; Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders) was quality too.
12. Should he stay at second five, which you suspect he will, Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) will be an excellent foil for the men either side of him. He showed a nice kicking game which will provide a left foot/right foot combo with Mo’unga and his ball carrying, line running, passing and defending will be a delight for any centre to work with. Likewise Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) delivered 40 minutes of superb rugby as has become the norm for him – I can’t split them so you decide but there is no wrong answer.
13. While he grabbed a brace of tries, Braydon Ennor’s (Crusaders) defence was just as outstanding as the attack was, combining with those players inside and outside him excellently.
14. Will Jordan (Crusaders) got his hands on the ball a lot and did so with good effect. He made the most of the start and will have giving Coach Scott Robertson plenty to think as he mulls his back three options for the Chiefs this weekend. There was also plenty to like about Mark Telea’s (Blues) first up effort at this level.
15. David Havili (Crusaders) was top drawer for the first forty eight minutes at fullback before switching to second five for the remainder of the game. His general field play was borderline flawless, breaking the line and beating defenders with regularity and ease due to always being in the right place and the right time to make the right play; his goal kicking was more than useful too – BACK OF THE WEEK
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