Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Who's hot and who's not - week 10

Israel Folau scored a try - showcasing all of his AFL skills when effortlessly plucking the ball from the air between two Chiefs - and made several last-ditch try-saving tackles. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Folau scored a try - showcasing all of his AFL skills when effortlessly plucking the ball from the air between two Chiefs - and made several last-ditch try-saving tackles. Photo / Getty Images

Patrick McKendry names the top back, standout forward and the four in-form teams from the weekend's Super 15 action.

Back of the week
Israel Folau (Waratahs)

A stunning performance from a player still finding his feet in the game. Waratahs fullback Israel Folau scored a try - showcasing all of his AFL skills when effortlessly plucking the ball from the air between two Chiefs - and made several last-ditch try-saving tackles. His wasn't a perfect performance - his miss on Gareth Anscombe which allowed the fullback to score for the Chiefs was poor - but this guy has the X-factor that the Chiefs are missing thanks to the departure of their own code-hopper, Sonny Bill Williams.

Forward of the week
Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes)

In a fairly bleak weekend for New Zealand rugby, we'll take any cheer we can, so take a bow please Jeremy Thrush. On his return from injury, he took charge of the lineouts against the Force in Wellington and generally made a nuisance of himself in general play.

It was a robust, direct, performance from Thrush and more of the same will be required of him against the Stormers in Palmerston North next weekend, a critical match before the Hurricanes travel to South Africa. His teammate Brad Shields also gave a good account of himself at blindside flanker.

Coach killers
Jonathan White/Garratt Williamson

One coach's poor referee is another coach's hero - a situation Kiwi Jonathan White found himself in at King's Park, Durban, when a couple of his decisions went in favour of the Cheetahs, who won 12-6. What the Sharks considered as a too-short advantage for a knock-on by the Cheetahs ended with visiting wing Willie le Roux racing away for a match-winning intercept try. Unfortunately, Garratt Williamson's performance in the Crusaders v Highlanders match in Christchurch is also worth mentioning. In freezing conditions, Williamson extended the agony of an ordinary match as he constantly sought a second opinion from the TMO. The first half took a tick under 50 minutes. A crowd killer.

Fab Four

Cheetahs
Beat Sharks 12-6 at King's Park
6th overall, 2nd in SAC
For a brief time following this two-tries-to-nil victory over the Sharks in Durban, the Cheetahs led the South African conference. They were overtaken by the Bulls after their bonus point away win over the Kings, but this victory was a significant one for the Cheetahs, who used to be perennial battlers but who now sit sixth overall with six wins and three losses. It ended a five-matching losing streak over the Sharks. With five of their next seven matches to be played at home, the Cheetahs, who also have yet to have a bye, are in with a good shout of making the play-offs for the first time.

Bulls
Beat Kings 34-0 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
3rd overall, 1st in SAC
The bully boys are back and this time they did it away from home against nearly everyone's sentimental favourites the Kings. The Bulls led 20-0 at halftime, but had to wait until after the fulltime hooter to score the bonus point fourth try. Akona Ndungane got there in the end, with Jacques Potgieter scoring the third only minutes earlier. Like the Cheetahs, the Bulls are also very well positioned for a play-off spot. They are always difficult at home but questions remain over their away form. With Morne Steyn continuing to pull the strings as playmaker, excitement machines they are not.

Brumbies
Drew with Reds 19-19 at Suncorp Stadium
1st overall, 1st in AC
This was an extremely important test for the competition-leading Brumbies and, while they didn't win, they probably emerged moral victors given the defending they had to do against the resurgent Reds in Brisbane. There was a suspicion that the Brumbies were heading for a fall given their so-called limited game plan, but, in an ill-tempered match, they impressed with their resolve against the odds. They lost two players to the sinbin, one in each half, yet refused to capitulate against a side containing such threats as Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper and Will Genia.

Blues
Bye
2nd overall, 1st in NZC
The only New Zealand side to enhance its reputation this past weekend, the Blues enjoyed four points for a bye which sent them to the top of their conference. Sir John Kirwan's men had the luxury of sitting back and watching as the Hurricanes battled to subdue the Force in Wellington, the Chiefs lost to the Waratahs in Sydney and the Crusaders and Highlanders bored many spectators to a stupor in Christchurch. To be fair, conditions were difficult in Christchurch but much of the play was dross. The Blues would do well to be rested, though, a serious test of their credentials looms on Friday night against the Reds in Brisbane.

Form XV
15 Gareth Anscombe (Chiefs)
14 Aseali Tikoirotuma (Chiefs)
13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)
12 Tim Bateman (Hurricanes)
11 Alapati Leiua (Hurricanes)
10 Tusi Pisi (Hurricanes)
9 Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
8 TJ Ioane (Highlanders)
7 Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes)
5 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
4 Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes)
3 Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2 Corey Flynn (Crusaders)
1 Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)

- APNZ

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