Kris Shannon reviews the best and worst performers from the latest Super Rugby action.
Back of the week
Damian McKenzie (Chiefs)
Something about playing in Cape Town agrees with Damian McKenzie. Last year, in his first visit to Newlands, McKenzie played an integral role in the Chiefs' quarterfinal romp, scoring one try, laying on two more and finishing with25 points. And while the result may have been rather different in this weekend's re-match against the Stormers, McKenzie's performance was similarly exceptional. The fullback first sparked what will be tough to top for the best try of the season, launching a thrilling counter-attack from his own try-line, and then carved through the Stormers defence himself in setting up Toni Pulu's second. McKenzie's 132 running metres, 16 carries and four offloads were all match-highs.
Forward of the week
Liam Squire (Highlanders)
It takes a special effort for a substitute to be recognised in this spot but that's what Liam Squire provided in the Highlanders' battling win over the Blues.
In his first appearance since round two, Squire made an unforgettable impact in his 35minutes, adding a level of brutality to an occasion that was calling for exactly that. The All Black loosie entered with the scores locked at 20 and led a shut-down defensive effort, making six thunderous tackles and missing none. Squire was equally ferocious in his four carries and it was no surprise to hear coach Tony Brown praise his player for "having no regard for his body".
Francois Brummer (Bulls)
It was a kick every watching neutral was hoping he would miss and Francois Brummer duly obliged to confirm the Sunwolves' rousing win over the Bulls. It would have been cruel, given the fight they had shown for 75minutes, for the Japanese outfit to be denied their second ever win in the 76th, when referee Will Houston spotted an infringement and gave Brummer the chance to put the South African side back in front. But, although the penalty opportunity was on a reasonable angle and certainly within range, Brummer pushed it wide. Bummer for him and the Bulls, jubilation for the Sunwolves and just about everyone else.
34-26 win over Chiefs
1st in SAC1, 1st overall
Stormers an apology. For weeks they have been under-estimated, with their unbeaten record attributed to an easy schedule and a regression long predicted. Well, not only did the Stormers defeat one of the title favourites but they did it in style, attacking with patience and panache before defending their lead doggedly. Their toughest test is still to come, with a trip to New Zealand following next week's show down with the Lions for South African supremacy, but these Stormers appear up for the challenge.
38-28 win over Waratahs
2nd in NZC, 5th overall
All things considered, this was a good round for the Crusaders, who rested and retained their lead a top the Kiwi conference. But since there's nothing
fabulous about a bye, the Hurricanes fly our flag after running in another six tries against the Waratahs, leaving their average at 7.3 after six games. Their victory was far from flawless and Beauden Barrett's dismissal removed further gloss, but the under-strength champs showed in the first 10 minutes alone why they could very well defend their crown.
18-13 win over Jaguares
2nd in SAC2, 7th overall
Aside from the abysmal Kings, the second South African conference suddenly seems quite competitive. Sure, it benefits from avoiding New Zealand opposition, but there are three teams with legitimate playoff hopes, which is much more than can be said about Australia. The arm wrestle between the Sharks and Jaguares was for second spot behind the Lions and the home side earned those honours, hanging on to an early lead to hand the Argentinians just their second defeat of the season.
21-20 win over Bulls
4th in SAC1, 17th overall
What an opportune occasion for the Sunwolves to achieve their second win in franchise history. While not necessarily in danger of getting the
chop, it certainly was timely to demonstrate their potential for improvement the same weekend Sanzaar finally announced its contraction plans. The Sunwolves have some tough times ahead, starting their three-match New Zealand tour next weekend, so it was nice for them to first celebrate a victory in front of their fans. Ow,ow, ow, ooowwwwwlll!