Well that round of Super Rugby was an adventure wasn’t it?! The Hurricanes showed championship pedigree against the Blues; the Crusaders delivered a comeback that Lazarus would have been impressed with while the Highlanders and Chiefs overcame South African in differing manners. Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has run his eye over the weekend’s contests to select his NZ Team of the Week:
1 In the last fortnight, Karl Tu’inukafe (Chiefs) has dominated two international tighthead props at scrum time as well as being physical and industrious around the field and seems to be growing with confidence with every outing as illustrated at Newlands
2 Ricky Riccitelli (Hurricanes) is rightly in the All Blacks selection discussion and it is because of performances like Friday night in Auckland. He’s strung together a very consistent two months but his active, robust and accurate outing against the Blues might have been the best of the lot
3 Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs) shows no signs of fatigue despite a massive workload for the Chiefs. He was into everything against the Stormers and part of a scrum that delivered a strong platform throughout the match and ultimately provided the winning play of the game
4 The way Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) is playing the game at the moment is other worldly; Newlands was just another example of that – Forward of the Week … and by some distance
5 Sam Lousi (Hurricanes) carried a lot for very little gain at Eden Park, but every single one of his 14 ball carries took some stopping and his work helped wear down the Blues; solid defensively, snaffled a turn over and a very reliable lineout option
6 Whether it was in tight or out wide, with the ball or without the ball, Elliot Dixon (Highlanders) was urgent and unrelenting against the Lions, highlighting that his re-signing is a great piece of business by the Highlanders, who have been doing a bit of that in the last fortnight
7 Friday night was the best game of an injury hampered season for Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) and the timing with All Black selection looming this Sunday could not have been better.
8 Gareth Evans (Hurricanes) rightly earned the plaudits of his coach following an outstanding all round effort at Eden Park while Luke Whitelock (Highlanders) produced a performance that matched his former team-mates efforts 24 hours earlier
9 He only played 30 minutes but TJ Perenara’s (Hurricanes) influence of this week’s NZ derby game was so evidence from the moment he hit the field. The intensity of everything that the Hurricanes did stepped up instantly, with the main beneficiary being first five Beauden Barrett.
10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) was good for the first 50 minutes but great once old mate TJ Perenara, he thrived on the extra speed and time provided by an international halfback to help power the Canes away from the Blues.
11 Thought Solomon Alaimalo (Chiefs) had good impact in what was a messy affair at Newlands. He generally made something positive happened when he got his hands on the bal; Tevita Nabura (Highlanders) showed some of his obvious talent under the roof too
12 Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) was robustly accurate in everything he did, whether it was his 15 muscly carries into the teeth of the Blues defence or the nine tackles he made.
13 I thought all the centres played pretty good code on the weekend, though some harder to separate than others; a coin flip for me between Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) Rob Thompson (Highlanders) and Anton Leinert-Brown (Chiefs)
14 Every touch that Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) had on Saturday night was a positive one and the Lions struggled to handle him. He wins the Russell Westbrook Stat Line of the Week award with 14 carries, 82 metres made, 9 defenders beaten, 3 clean line breaks, two turnovers won, an offload and a try
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders) was his typically peerless best in Dunedin; seriously, go back and just watch him and him alone as he put on a clinic on how to play the fullback position – Back of the Week. George Bridge (Crusaders) was pretty darn impressive too in the Crusaders comeback win but coughing up the ball on three occasions was the clear difference between he and Smith
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