Kris Shannon reviews the best and worst performers from the latest Super Rugby action.
Back of the week
Matt Duffie (Blues)
Each member of the Blues' back three shone in the second half of the win over the Bulls but Matt Duffie takes the honours over Michael Collins and Melani Nanai. The league convert looked an outstanding rugby player on Saturday night - although one of his two tries used skills not dissimilar to what he would have shown in a Melbourne Storm jersey - continuing a promising second season with the Blues. Duffie made 63 metres on 13 carries while beating three Bulls defenders, providing a level of strength in the carry that belied his relatively slight frame and earning high praise from his coach after the game.
Forward of the week
Jaco Kriel (Lions)
Jaco Kriel earns this prize based largely on one statistic: nine defenders beaten.
That's more than the entire Brumbies team managed in their clash with the Highlanders, more than any forward has managed in one match this season. Kriel, as that number suggested, had his way with the Kings defence in the Lions' big win, leading both teams with 116 metres on 14 carries, while also making four clean breaks, chucking a couple of offloads, setting up one try and scoring another after busting clear from a maul. The blindside flanker also did a decent job in his core duties but it was with ball in hand where he really shone.
The Reds must be getting pretty sick of the sight of Mike Fraser. The Kiwi referee has been in charge for their last two games and in both weeks has reached for his pocket in quick succession. Last week Fraser flashed the Reds a yellow and a red within three minutes, allowing the Lions to run in five tries against short-handed opponents. And yesterday Fraser sent two Reds to the sinbin in consecutive minutes, allowing the Jaguares to score two of their three tries while facing 13 men. It was all enough to make the suspended Quade Cooper reach for his phone and tweet: "Nice way to ruin a game."
The Fab Four
45-17 win over Force
1st in NZC, 1st overall
Just one Kiwi representative in the Fab Four, for perhaps the first time in its fabulous history. That's what happens when two New Zealand teams have byes and two more have losing records. The Crusaders, though, are worthy leaders, becoming the first team to five wins this season and, against the Force, doing it fairly comfortably for the first time this year. A win in Sydney on Sunday and the Crusaders will be sitting very pretty during their own bye week.
42-19 win over Kings
1st in SAC2, 2nd overall
It was hardly the Lions' greatest performance but it didn't need to be, not against the Kings and not this season. In averaging 38.6 points a game, the Lions trail only the Hurricanes in terms of attacking prowess, a level of menace far too lethal for the strugglers that make up the rest of the South African group. Looking through the Lions' schedule, they should have plenty more opportunities to play before their best and still accrue comfortable wins.
22-8 win over Reds
2nd in SAC2, 6th overall
Another week, another victory for the Jaguares, who have now matched their 2016 win total from one-third of the games. The Argentinian outfit have also scored the third-most points this season while conceding the sixth-fewest. It's almost as if being allowed to avoid Kiwi opposition greatly improves a team's chances of success. The Jaguares now head on a three-match tour of the Republic, which should provide an idea of their playoff chances.
44-31 win over Sunwolves
1st in SAC1, 3rd overall
Hopefully the Stormers are enjoying their lofty standing because they're in store for an almighty reckoning. One of their four triumphs this season was against a side with a winning record; the other three came over teams with a combined record of 2-12. And their victory over the Sunwolves was secured only with two tries in the final five minutes. The Stormers now face the lowly Cheetahs, then this: Chiefs, Lions, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes.