Super Rugby Team of the Week: Round 4

By Nigel Yalden

Elliot Dixon was the NZ forward of the week, according to Nigel Yalden. Photo /Getty
Elliot Dixon was the NZ forward of the week, according to Nigel Yalden. Photo /Getty

Four wins and a draw represents a good weekend for the New Zealand teams ... ok the draw wasn't that flash but hey, they didn't lose (glass half full people).

Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has compiled his NZ Team of the Week, but first a message from the author:

"Hello there - I copped some (mostly) good natured ribbing from Chiefs fans last week for not selecting anyone from their team after their 58-24 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth. Well I'm bracing myself for more of the same from Crusaders country, as they have no-one in this team despite their 57-24 win over the Kings in Christchurch. Let me make this clear - the Kings players are playing to the best of their abilities and furthermore playing their hearts out, but that is not a Super Rugby level team. I'm not going to get into the financial, social and political aspects that have put this group of players and coaches in the overtly challenging position they find themselves in, so in order to get picked in the team of the week if you are playing the Kings, you are going to have to do something beyond brilliant in all aspects to get selected and no members of the Chiefs or Crusaders achieved that - thanks"

1. Chris Eves (Hurricanes) - best in a position that as a collective had their struggles over the weekend. Eves was prominent around the field including a couple of incisive runs (4 defenders beaten) and solid in his core roles

2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes) - tough to pick between Coles and Hika Elliot (Chiefs) who both produced industrious efforts. While Elliot was up against the best hooker in world rugby and competed well, I've gone with Coles as I feel he had more consistent involvement during his time on the field, where as Elliot took a little bit to get into the game.

3. Siosiua Halanukonuka (Highlanders) - The big Makos prop helped destroy the Waratahs scrum on several occasions whilst being rock solid on the Highlanders own feed, good defence in and around the ruck area, might not be the quickest around the field but does his work and could very well be the best lineout-lifting prop in NZ rugby at the moment.

4. Blade Thomson (Hurricanes) - there's a lot to like about Thomson's game in Palmerston North. After a busy hour of work in the engine room, he switched to number eight and ended the game full of running. He must maintain that level of performance to be serious considered for the lock/blindside/number 8 hybrid that Steve Hansen craves at the next level.

5. Tom Franklin (Highlanders) - worked very hard in the tight exchanges including snaring a couple of turnovers and he alongside Alex Ainley provided some serious second row grunted as the 'Landers pack overpowered the Waratahs in the scrum during the first hour of the game.

6. Elliot Dixon (Highlanders) - Was dubbed "The Everywhere Man" by Greg Clarke and his commentary team on Friday night and that was absolutely, 100%, bang on the money; tries, tackles, carries, link play, lineout takes, lineout steals, scrapping for ball on the ground, Dixon WAS everywhere - NZ Forward of the Week

7. Shane Christie (Highlanders) - everyone loves to talk about Cane, Savea, Todd and Gibson in the Richie McCaw successor conversation, but I suspect Shane Christie's early season form, as evident by another robust, combative, tireless performance in Sydney, is garnering plenty of attention from those who have the final say on such matters. That said Sam Cane (Chiefs) warrants a mention as he was pretty darn good against the Jaguares with 17 tackles, 11 carries, good support play and always battling hard to get onto the ball

8. Liam Squire (Highlanders) - he complimented the work of his fellow loose forward beautifully with powerful carries, strong in the tackle and excellent around field as illustrated by his involvement in the tackle to bundle Michael Hooper into touch as he galloped down the sideline in the penultimate minute of Friday night's game.

9. Brad Weber (Chiefs) - while he only played 32 minutes, I thought what he bought to Estadio Jose Amalfitani was crucial in the final outcome. That little extra speed to base of the ruck and his confidence at having a crack around the ruck, thus drawing the Jaguares defence in a touch was a difference maker; he always runs great support lines so unsurprising to see him in the right place at the right time for the game winning try.

10. Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders) - another excellent example of how he now controls games, be it through the hands or with the boot. As he did in last year's semi-final at the same venue, he executed the kicking game plan brilliantly and continues to kick them off the tee at a high percentage.

11. James Lowe (Chiefs) - he's at his best when he gets the ball in hand and then he reads and reacts. Lowe makes really decisions on when to kick and when to run and when he run on Sunday morning it was effective (11 carries including 2 line breaks and 88 metres gained)

12. Charlie Ngatai (Chiefs) - wonderful all round game in Buenos Aires from Ngatai whose stocks must surely be rising in the grand scheme of things. He's beating defenders, off-loading the ball when appropriate, straighten up the attack when needed, defending with solidity (all things he did very well versus the Jaguares) and has good kicking game when needed. Ngani Laumape's performance against the Force - his best outing for the Hurricanes thus far - also deserves mention

13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders) - this was another tough choice as Anton Leinert-Brown (Chiefs) was pretty jolly good in Buenos Aires, but every time Fekitoa touches the ball or makes a defensive play, it has a positive impact for his side. After his off-field pre-season admission, Coach Jamie Joseph just wanted him to just get out and play and Fekitoa is doing that in spades - my NZ Back of the Week

14. Sam McNicol (Chiefs) - very impressive work from the 20 year old in his run-on debut. Showed good awareness & athleticism to finish the Chiefs first try of the night, looked to get involved in the game too yet not at the expense of getting caught out of position.

15. Ben Smith (Highlanders) - what ... were you expecting someone else?

** Statistics via NZ Heralds Rugby Stats Centre

Nigel Yalden is the rugby editor for Radio Sport & Newstalk ZB

- NZ Herald

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