Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Who's hot and who's not

Livewire Cheetahs halfback Sarel Pretorius impressed against the Highlanders. Photo /Getty Images
Livewire Cheetahs halfback Sarel Pretorius impressed against the Highlanders. Photo /Getty Images

Patrick McKendry names the top back and standout forward from the weekend's Super 15 action where South Africa got bragging rights over three New Zealand teams.

Back of the week:
Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs)
A little livewire halfback who sparked the Cheetahs into a frenzy in Invercargill, Pretorius made the sluggish Highlanders pay. Was curiously substituted on the hour mark despite his hot streak, which included two long-range tries in the first half. However, he had done enough by that stage. The 28-year-old spent last year at the Waratahs before returning to Bloemfontein and it looks like he's pleased to be back. Julian Savea was stunning at times for the Hurricanes against the Crusaders when doing a Jonah, but didn't have the overall impact of Pretorius. Kade Poki did well to score a hat-trick for a well-beaten Highlanders.

Forward of the week:
Andries Bekker (Stormers)
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie called him a "monster", and that's what he is. Bekker almost singlehandedly dismantled the Chiefs lineout at Newlands, making Craig Clarke and Co look like midgets.

The Springboks lock stands 2.08m but has the skills and pace of a loose forward. In one sequence when he charged up-field and bumped off Gareth Anscombe, he looked like a midfield back, albeit one with giraffe-sized dimensions. Second-best at the lineout, the Chiefs also lost the collisions and the breakdowns and much of that stemmed from Bekker. Talking of physicality, the Cheetahs loose forwards Philip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne were also excellent.

Coach Killer
Adam Whitelock (Crusaders)
When you're leading by six points with eight minutes to go and receive the ball in the midfield from a set piece, convention dictates that you don't throw a loopy pass ripe for an intercept. That, unfortunately for him and the Crusaders, is what Adam Whitelock did as he attempted to find Israel Dagg. Alapati Leiua needed no second invitation, pouncing and scoring the try which stole an improbable win for the Hurricanes. To be fair to Whitelock, he wouldn't have called the move and had the pass stuck the Crusaders would have probably scored. That little fact probably makes it even worse for Todd Blackadder, though. A special mention to Highlanders first-five Lima Sapoaga, who gave up 14 points to the Cheetahs in Invercargill with two madcap chip kicks and was dragged by Jamie Joseph after 37 minutes.

Fab Four

Cheetahs
Won 36-19 v Highlanders, Rugby Park
13th overall, 5th in SAC
Jamie Joseph will not be happy with this defeat. Sure, he was missing his ballistic ball carrier Nasi Manu and the midfield presence of All Blacks second-five Ma'a Nonu, but it wasn't only the defeat which will hurt but the nature of it. Simply put, the Highlanders forwards, including Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Brad Thorn, were out-muscled. The Cheetahs' pack, led by loosies Philip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne, with super sub Heinrich Brussow also making a welcome return from injury, were sublime. Their backs weren't shabby either. Sarel Pretorius was a handful and Johan Goosen kicked all of his goals, unlike last week against the Chiefs. The competition's entertainers deserved this one.

Stormers
Won 36-34 v Chiefs, Newlands
10th overall, 4th in SAC
Mess with the Chiefs lineout and you mess with their whole game. The Crusaders did it in their round-robin win in Hamilton last season and it was a template the Stormers ran with yesterday morning. This was a welcome victory for the men from Cape Town, who had lost their two opening matches of the season. The desperation missing in those games was quickly to the fore at Newlands - they were aggressive and accurate in the tackle and breakdown, usually areas the Chiefs excel in. On the back foot for most of the match, however, the Chiefs almost won it in a thrilling finish.

Hurricanes
Won 29-28 v Crusaders, Westpac Stadium
11th overall, 4th in NZC
Even the Hurricanes' most ardent fans probably can't believe they won this. The Crusaders probably can't believe they lost it. With a decent lead, the Crusaders were cruising, until a few of them missed the bus _ Julian Savea, that is. The 22-year-old All Black is a game changer and he brought a new belief after bumping off Tom Marshall and Israel Dagg for his try. But they still had a lot of work to do. Step up Alapati Leiua, whose intercept sealed the win for Mark Hammett's men, their first of the season. The Crusaders showed enough to suggest they will be dangerous again this season, if they can put it together for 80 minutes.

Brumbies
Won 35-6 v Waratahs, Canberra Stadium
1st overall, 1st in AC
A bitter-sweet victory this for the Brumbies over the Sydney-siders which kept them at the top of the table. Wallabies flanker David Pocock suffered a knee injury after only 12 minutes which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season and the visit of the British and Irish Lions. The Brumbies outscored the disappointing Waratahs four tries to none. Stat watch: In three games this season the Brumbies are yet to concede a point in the second half. However, they have played only Australian opposition and have played twice at home. Probably can't read too much into that, then.

Form XV
15. Charles Piutau (Blues)
14. Kade Poki (Highlanders)
13. Rene Ranger (Blues)
12. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes)
10. Dan Carter (Crusaders)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs)
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders)
7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6. Brad Shields (Hurricanes)
5. Ali Williams (Blues)
4. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
3. Ben Afeaki (Chiefs)
2. Corey Flynn (Crusaders)
1. Pauliasi Manu (Chiefs)

- APNZ

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