Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

The Super Rugby week one awards

Damian McKenzie was a standout for the Chiefs. Photo / Getty
Damian McKenzie was a standout for the Chiefs. Photo / Getty

Rugby is underway. Time to jump the gun with the Super Rugby Round One Awards. After all the well-justified doom and gloom about the new competition, it had a stirring start.

Biggest surprise

Just that. The competition got off to an exciting start. There was an early feel-good factor.

Team of the week - Japan's Sunwolves

The only chance to give them a nice award. Losing by 13 to the Jo'burg Lions will be their highlight. The Sunwolves are relegation material, and Super Rugby doesn't even have relegation. Something approaching 80,000km of travel will do them in. They will lose more players than most to injury because they will be underpowered and over-travelled.

Prediction: The Sunwolves will lose a game by more than 100 points. When it comes to the Sunwolves, the results should not be printed in the paper and there should be no yelling on the sideline.

Player of the Week - Damian McKenzie

A victory for the little man. At a cream scone over 80kg, McKenzie is too small for this level of rugby, except that he isn't. McKenzie was in to everything as the Chiefs tipped over the Crusaders. He even lowered Nemani Nadolo, whose 130kg frame was hurtling for the corner. McKenzie wouldn't even have been very big in the old days. Zappy little players like McKenzie make rugby come alive - it's one of rugby's strengths, still being a game for all shapes and sizes. Nippy Nehe Milner-Skudder was the trailblazer last year and no surprise - someone is already following. Watching all that energy from a fullback, you had to think "Goodbye Israel Dagg".

Mystery of the Week

If McKenzie continues kicking the goals for the Chiefs, how will Aaron Cruden make and prove himself a test class goalkicker?

Best Contests

All Blacks v All Blacks. That's what will go a long way to make Super Rugby tick again: ie. get rid of the player rest periods outside of World Cup years. Kieran Read did the right thing with a u-turn, and turning up to play. But he looked under-prepared and was nondescript. Andy Ellis v Aaron Cruden was the best stoush. Rugby needs a few villains, although these two little fellas aren't great candidates for the role to be fair.

The Real Team of the Week

The Brumbies. Wow. Wow. Wow. The Hurricanes might have read too much into the previews, particularly after destroying the Crusaders pre-season. The Brumbies struck with precision. Take away kicking, and Stephen Larkham is the greatest first five-eighths who ever lived for my money. Maybe he has the Right Stuff as a coach.

Best New Rule

The one stopping annoying halfbacks annoying other annoying halfbacks at scrums. Halfbacks can no longer step between a flanker and number eight at scrums. It made for cleaner dispersal of the ball, and opened up attacking possibilities. It's a great move. Rule changes don't always work as they might in rugby, but this one looks tamper proof.

Scrum of the Week

The Crusaders scored after turning the Chiefs eight into confetti.

Best Hasty Prediction But What The Heck Award

The Crusaders have got it wrong, sticking with Todd "Bridesmaid" Blackadder for a final season. Their attack was again laboured against the injury-ravaged Chiefs. They needed a new broom.

Biggest Mystery

Have the Blues really turned a corner? It's easy to get excited, and well done to Tana Umaga on his first win as a Super Rugby head coach. It was a cracking game against the Highlanders. But we've been here with the Blues before. The Highlanders weren't all that good by their 2015 standards, and almost won at Eden Park. If the Blues are still going well about round 10, then the pulse might quicken, just a little. Perhaps. But halfback Bryn Hall's energy was a big plus. Maybe the Blues have finally found their halves - Hall and Ihaia West.

Shock of the Week

Blues loose forward Blake Gibson barging through Ben Smith on his way to the tryline. Rugby's favourite boy next door was turned into a revolving door. You won't see that again in a hurry.

The Oh No Award

...not another great Kiwi rugby coach on the rise. Daryl Gibson had an encouraging start in charge of the Waratahs, in the derby against the Reds. The rugby world is saturated with New Zealand coaches.

If the Mountain will not come to Mohammad Award.

To the Japanese pioneers, and those who are giving them a shot. If Super Rugby Sunwolves-style falls over in Japan, there is an answer. Ayumu Goromaru's presence at the Reds drew 10 Japanese journalists to the opener in Sydney. Prop Hiroshi Yamashita, a late addition for the Chiefs, was hurled into the cauldron, starting against the Crusaders' power pack. The creative, committed Michael Leitch was outstanding for the Chiefs last year. Little livewire Fumiaki Tanaka has been influential in the Highlanders' rise. The Blues have added Male Sa'u. The inclusion of the best Japanese players in other Super Rugby teams might be a better bet than setting the Sunwolves up for a massive fall that will humiliate Japanese rugby.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 10 Dec 2016 20:27:33 Processing Time: 375ms