Super Rugby was at the heart of a jam-packed sporting weekend, with wins to the Chiefs, Crusaders and Hurricanes, and the first two knocking off conference rivals the Blues and Highlanders.
Radio Sport rugby editor Nigel Yalden presents his NZ Form Team of the Week for round two of Super Rugby.
1. Kane Hames (Chiefs)
Hames helped set the tone early for the Chiefs' dominance at scrum time (that was when it was still eight-on-eight). He was strong and robust in general play, and his lifting in the lineout (the oft-overlooked skill of a prop) was on point during another excellent Chiefs lineout display.
2. Liam Coltman (Highlanders)
With the injury in warm-up to reserve hooker Adrian Smith, Coltman was always going to have to go the distance, which he did and he was tremendous throughout. His mobility and physicality was excellent as usual, while his lineout throwing continues to show improved consistency - the throw that set up the try Evans was pin-point perfect.
3. Owen Frank (Crusaders)
That game was made for an uncompromising beast like Franks. He repeatedly ploughed into anything and everything wearing blue on Saturday night, whether he had the ball or not, and owned his side of the scrum in emphatic fashion.
4. Dominic Bird (Chiefs)
Bird has started this season in the best form of his career. He is calling and controlling the Chiefs lineout with aplomb, defending hard and his work as a midfield ball carrier is significantly improved. He invariably took the right option on Friday night, highlighted by a delightful ball to put Nanai-Williams into a hole to set up the McKenzie try.
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Whitelock was at the heart of the battle throughout the first hour in Dunedin, but was extremely prominent, especially in the open field with some fine support play, during the final 20 minutes of the Crusaders stirring comeback victory. It's a very small sample size, but captaincy seems to sit very well with him, while he is doing the core roles of lock like the world-class second-row forward that he is.
NB - There were a raft to outstanding performances by the locks this round, with Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) Michael Fatialofa (Hurricanes) Tom Franklin (Highlanders) & Alex Ainley (Highlanders) all worthy of inclusion as well.
6. Brad Shields (Hurricanes)
Relentless, rugged, raw-boned - everything you want in a blindside flanker and then some - Shields' play allows others to shine around the field, though he was pretty good in that regard himself against the Rabbles (four breaks, four offloads)
7. Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs)
Bashier produced a monster all-round performance to stand out in a game that featured numerous stars. He made key tackles, delivered strong and timely ball carries, and was always in and around the ball like a good opensider should be. That said, his opposite Blake Gibson (Blues) was also quite outstanding in a losing effort, tackling his heart out for his team, but Boshier gets the nod.
Forward of the Week
8. Whetu Douglas (Crusaders)
Douglas is making every post a winner in his first season of Super Rugby. He's essentially playing for a spot on the Crusaders bench, when one Kieran Read returns to the fold and he's put up a compelling case the first fortnight. He was excellent again in the Glass House Saturday night and like his captain, was prominent around the field in the final quarter of the comeback, highlighting his skill, speed and endurance.
9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
The confidence gained by Perenara last year has flowed seamlessly in the opening fortnight of his 2017 season. Even against meek opposition, Perenara is controlling and directing play in tandem with Beauden Barrett in a quite delightful fashion.
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
Cruden produced the sort of game you would expect of a player of his calibre and experience in a milestone game. He pulled the strings nicely in his 100th game and has been notably strong defensively in the first fortnight of the season. Remiss not to mention the performance of Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) and the thought of Cruden and Barrett bumping heads this Friday night is positively mouth-watering.
11. Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders)
Taminivalu looks really, really good on the left wing. He was able to roam on Saturday night and his involvement was significant. He was excellent on the carry and his judicious use of the offload was pivotal in three Crusaders tries. Julian Savea (Hurricanes) was also impressive and had better statistics, but Tamanivalu's role in overturning the 21-point deficit cannot be overlooked.
12. Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)
Who doesn't love a good stat line? Fifteen carries for 168 metres, eight defenders (albeit a loose term when referring to the Rabbles) beaten, five line breaks, three off loads, two tries and one intercept - those are numbers that Russell Westbrook would be proud of. He's not at the same level yet, but he's trending upwards enough to make comparisons in certain areas of the game to Ma'a Nonu and it not be insulting to the best second-five in All Blacks history.
Back of the Week
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)
ALB negated any possible influence on the game by his (rightfully) highly touted opposite Rieko Ioane, while also contributing on attack, running strongly with ball in hand and in support.
14. Waisake Naholo (Highlanders)
Naholo did everything he could to get his team over the line. He chased the myriad of kicks put up, and ran a number of beautiful support and chase lines, having a hand in the first try, before scoring the other two. That said, I can make a very, very compelling case for Vince Aso (Hurricanes), who was outstanding for the Hurricanes for a second week in succession and it wouldn't take much to sway me in Aso's favour.
15. Nehe Milner-Skudder (Hurricanes)
What did we want to see from the returning NMS - the speed, the step, the sharpness, the support ... tick, tick, tick, tick. Good to have you back, young man, now for heaven's sake please stay fit, cos you're so much fun to watch
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
** Statistics via the NZ Herald Stat Centre **
NIGEL YALDEN IS THE RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB