Patrick McKendry names the top back, standout forward and the four in-form teams from the weekend's Super 15 action.
Forward of the week: Kieran Read (Crusaders)
How important is Kieran Read to the Crusaders? Let's just say his big toe, injured late in his team's big win over the Kings in Christchurch, will be very well looked after by the Crusaders' medics this week as they prepare for a significant encounter against the Stormers in Cape Town. Read was immense for his team. His status as one of the world's best No8's is beyond dispute and he is also quickly becoming one of the best captains. Apart from his ball carrying and defensive work, his lineout ability is world class. All of which means the Crusaders need to take very good care of their stand-out forward and skipper.
Back of the week: Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Another question - how bad would the Highlanders be without Ben Smith? The fullback turned in a superb performance in the loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton. His broken-field running is among the best in the competition but he also showed the other side of his game at Waikato Stadium - his uncanny ability to snuff out an attack. His stripping the ball from a slippery Aaron Cruden as the No10 headed for the tryline was a case in point. Being bumped off by Ben Franks the previous weekend in Dunedin was a painful aberration.
Coach Killer: Tony Woodcock (Highlanders)
Having just welcomed Ma'a Nonu back into the starting line-up, Jamie Joseph promptly lost another one of his new All Blacks signings - prop Tony Woodcock - to a hamstring strain. Woodcock suffered the injury during the week but appeared to recover only to report unfit to play the Chiefs on game day. It probably wasn't his fault he got injured but it's typical of what Joseph is getting from his experienced players - not much. Woodcock's replacement Ma'afu Fia did well in the circumstances but that's cold comfort for Joseph after his team's fourth loss in four matches.
Won 55-20 v Kings, AMI Stadium
5th overall, 2nd in NZC.
An impressive, bonus-point victory in what was a tricky encounter against the Kings. With a strong Crusaders side named for what should have been a comfortable victory, there was pressure on to put the Kings away in style. With skipper Kieran Read setting the standard, that's exactly what they did. Next up are the Stormers, who ended the Brumbies' winning run, in Cape Town. It's a tough assignment but the Crusaders will have high expectations. Their width game, combined with direct running from the forwards, is coming together nicely, though they will miss Dan Carter, who has stayed home for the birth of his first child.
Won 19-7 v Highlanders, Waikato Stadium
2nd overall, 1st in NZC
A victory high on grit, if a little low on quality. Regardless, it was a very good effort from the Chiefs, who were tired after their long trip back from South Africa. The Highlanders threw everything at them in the first half, but only Aaron Smith got through. In the second half the Chiefs got hold of the ball and refused to return it - which is the best way to avoid having to make tackles. They have centre Richard Kahui back - and he might start against the Blues at Mt Maunganui on Saturday - but lose Tawera Kerr-Barlow for six weeks due to a broken jaw. Brendon Leonard's impending return from a cheekbone injury is timely. The Brumbies' defeat means they edge closer to the overall lead.
Won 35-22 v Brumbies, Newlands
8th overall, 3rd in SAC
The Stormers ended the Brumbies' charmed run with a comprehensive victory in Cape Town - giant Springboks lock Andries Bekker scoring two tries for the home side. With two defeats to start with and a home victory over the Chiefs before this one, the Stormers' season is mirroring that of the Crusaders, who they play next. In the absence of Carter, Todd Blackadder will be putting heat on his forwards to continue their recent impressive work and control things. It is one of the clashes of the next round, the other being the Chiefs' match against the Blues at Mt Maunganui.
Won 23-18 v Bulls, Suncorp Stadium
4th overall, 2nd in AC
Quade Cooper has his mate Will Genia back and the pair are playing like Batman and Robin; that is to say, in an entertaining and dangerous fashion, albeit with frills attached. Flighty No10 Cooper played a big part in the Reds' first try to fullback Jono Lance and scored the second himself. The Bulls, impressive in their victory over the Blues at Eden Park before being demolished by the Crusaders, again relied on penalties, but JJ Englebrecht went extremely close to scoring in the corner after the fulltime hooter, the centre putting a foot into touch. The Bulls season looks ready to nose dive again, while the Reds continue on their inconsistent way.
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders)
14. Kade Poki (Highlanders)
13. Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs)
12. Andrew Horrell (Chiefs)
11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders)
10. Chris Noakes (Blues)
9. Willi Heinz (Crusaders)
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders)
7. Luke Braid (Blues)
6. George Whitelock (Crusaders)
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
4. Luke Romano (Crusaders)
3. Chris King (Highlanders)
2. James Parsons (Blues)
1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)