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 Dagg (Crusaders)
The running lines, the confidence, the nose for the tryline, Dagg is indeed back. Much of what he did against the Chiefs wouldn't have been possible without the work of his forwards, of course, but the old swagger has returned after the fullback spent the majority of the Crusaders season stuck in the doldrums, and occasionally, on the reserves bench.
Forward of the week:
Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Scored two tries, won lineout ball, carried the ball and defended extremely well _ Read was the epitome of excellence in Christchurch. Had a rare off night for the All Blacks in New Plymouth a few weeks ago, but returned to his usual form against the Chiefs. Still the standard-bearer for the Crusaders.
Robbie Robinson (Chiefs)
This is probably a bit harsh on Robinson, but his decision to run the ball from behind his line late in the first half against the Crusaders cost his team a 5m scrum and then the first of five tries. It didn't open the floodgates but it did open a door and Kieran Read was most grateful. Robinson has been consistently good this season but didn't have one of his better games.
won 43-15 v Chiefs at AMI Stadium
4th overall, 2nd in NZC
A statement of intent from the Crusaders, who are peaking at just the right time. The challenge will be to reach this level of intensity and skill again. They are definitely in the top six but are likely to have to travel if they make the semi-finals. With Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Kieran Read in his sort of form, though, anything is possible.
won 49-44 v Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium
14th overall, 5th in NZC
A try-fest of a match likely to warm the hearts of most neutrals given the Highlanders' struggles this season. Tackling appeared optional but the speed of thought and action, missing for the majority of the Highlanders's season, was back, with skipper Brad Thorn reprising his famous fist pump at the finish. They might yet avoid the wooden spoon.
won 34-13 v Blues at Free State Stadium
6th overall, 2nd in SAC
The Cheetahs have made the play-offs for the first time. A milestone moment for them only sealed late on against a disappointing Blues. Their bye this weekend means they are confirmed in the top six but their qualifier opposition has yet to be decided. Significantly for the Cheetahs, their win eliminated the Stormers and the Sharks from the playoffs.
won 20-19 v Sharks at Loftus Versfeld
1st overall, 1st in SAC
An important victory for the Bulls which has given them the competition lead but there was an element of luck to it. They only took control in the last minutes thanks to a try to Jano Vermaak but had to watch as Sharks fullback Riaan Viljoen missed a penalty in the dying seconds. Their final regular season match against the Stormers in Cape Town promises to be epic.
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders)
14. Kade Poki (Highlanders)
13. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
12. Tamati Ellison (Highlanders)
11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders)
10. Dan Carter (Crusaders)
9. Andy Ellis (Crusaders)
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders)
7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6. TJ Ioane (Highlanders)
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
4. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2. Corey Flynn (Crusaders)
1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)