Rugby writer Kris Shannon hands out his awards for the best players and teams from week 10 of Super Rugby.
Back of the week
Matt Proctor - Hurricanes
This honour could have gone to a number of Hurricanes- Cory Jane and Julian Savea both bagged braces while Beauden Barrett banished the memories of last week's shocking night from the tee with a near-flawless outing. But Proctor separated himself with an all round effort that saw the centre as effective at the breakdown as he was with ball in hand. Awarded man-of-the-match for his performance, Proctor led the Hurricanes on both sides of the ball, making 96 metres and beating four defenders while also snaffling two turnovers to ensure his potent backline enjoyed plenty of possession.
Forward of the week
Ash Dixon - Highlanders
Like Proctor's prize,this one was a bit of a team effort, given the Highlanders' pack collectively shone on defence in their win over the Brumbies, racking up 187 tackles to their opponents' 52. Dixon completed 18 of those without missing one, also pinching a turnover to help off set some of the Brumbies' huge dominance in possession and field position. The Highlanders hooker was an influential figure in anchoring a solid set piece- if the scrum were less effective or if the pack had problems defending the lineout drive, the Brumbies would have certainly turned their advantage into more points.
To complete a theme, Fraser could share this one with at least one assistant, with the refereeing team conspiring tohelp the Waratahs barely edge the Stormers in Cape Town. But the buck stopped with the Kiwi referee, who made one call and missed another to contribute to the visitors' two-point win. While sending off Stormers wing Leolin Zas for an admittedly-ugly high ball challenge on Bernard Foley was debatable,there was no
doubt Fraser missed a clear knock at the base of the ruck before the Waratahs' crossed for a game-winning 77th-minute try.
That opening-week thumping in Canberra feels like a long time ago. After proving they were the equal of the table-topping Chiefs in last week's agonising loss, the Hurricanes recorded the most impressive performance of any Kiwi side in the Republic this season. Their thrashing of the Lions - a team who have beaten the Chiefs and pushed the Crusaders to the limit-showed these Hurricanes aren't too dissimilar to last season's side.
After being upset away to the Reds and at home to the Sharks, this game was a must-win against a stumbling Brumbies. And that desperation showed in the manner of victory, with the Highlanders largely struggling with ball in hand and left to rely on a resolute defence. That defence certainly stood up to the task, holding firm despite huge disparities in possession (73 per cent to 27 per cent), tackles made (187 to 52) and rucks won (138 to 35).
It was far from the Chiefs' most convincing performance of the season- in fact, it was probably their worst since their surprising loss against the Lions. But against a Sharks side who had just humbled the Highlanders, the Chiefs showed they can grind out wins when their scintillating attack fails to fully fire. Their showdown with the Highlanders in Hamilton on Saturday night can't come soon enough.
It was only the Kings - who with the Force and the Sunwolves complete a trio of absolute rabble at the bottom of the competition - but this one would have felt particularly pleasing for the Jaguares. It was the Argentinians' first victory since round one and came a week after slumping to defeat in Tokyo,racking up 11 tries to record the second-highest total for any side this season.
Crusaders v Reds, Christchurch, 7.35pm
Brumbies v Bulls, Canberra, 9.40pm
Sunwolves v Force, Tokyo, 5.15pm
Chiefs v Highlanders, Hamilton, 7.35pm
Waratahs v Cheetahs, Sydney, 9.40pm
Sharks v Hurricanes, Durban, 1am
Kings v Blues, Port Elizabeth, 3.05am
Byes: Rebels, Jaguares, Stormers, Lions