A clean sweep for New Zealand teams in the latest round of Super Rugby may have put a smile on the face of most fans; however it gave Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden a head ache as he tried to gauge the individual efforts opposite contrasting levels of overall performances and in some case, as part of said performances.
Whether he's made sense of it is yet to be seen, however he has selected his NZ Form Team of the Week:
1. Pauliasi Manu (Blues) was rock solid and industrious in an extended shift against the Waratahs with his scrummaging the most impressive area. Chris Eves (Hurricanes) impact off the bench against the Stormers was very evident on Friday night too.
2. Liam Coltman (Highlanders) is continue to be the form New Zealand hooker in Super Rugby, maintaining his consistent high standard of play while some of those around him noticeably dropped theirs.
3. Charlie Faumuina (Blues) and Owen Franks (Crusaders) showed why they are the standard bearers for tighthead play with two excellent outings on either side of the Indian Ocean. I'm struggling to separate them so take your pick - either way you are right.
4. Tom Franklin's (Highlanders) work rate would have to be the equal of three All Black incumbent locks (Whitelock, Retallick & Barrett). Even amongst the helter-skelterness of that game against the Cheetahs, Franklin's lineout work, defence and involvement was top drawer.
5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) clearly isn't a fan of sitting in the stands if his efforts in New Plymouth are anything to go. He ripped into it from the first whistle & was still ploughing into everything when the full time siren went, hungry for work having been starved the previous weekend. Like many I suspect, I cannot wait to see Retallick and Bird go heads up with Whitelock, Barrett and Romano in Suva Friday week - Forward of the Week
6. When was the last time Brad Shieds (Hurricanes) played a bad game of rugby? While his team-mates get the headlines, Shields industriousness and accuracy in everything he does, particularly in tight, is crucial to his team's success. If he's not on the All Black selectors radar, there is something serious wrong.
7. This decision did my head in; we're talking multiple lie downs during the decision making process due to three outstanding openside performances from Matt Todd (Crusaders) Sam Cane (Chiefs) and Dillon Hunt (Highlanders). Todd get the nod, with his four turnovers a big factor in the final call (Hunt had three, Cane one), however all three were tireless on their respective encounters, tackling, carrying, providing quality support play and being absolute pests at the breakdown.
8. This was another tough call, this time between Akira Ioane (Blues) and Luke Whitelock (Highlanders). Ioane's work-rate the last two weeks has been excellent and while his try was a reminder of how good an athlete he is, it's the raft of muscly metres in tight that stood out against the Waratahs. Whitelock is as tireless as he is industrious and like his older brother up the road in Christchurch, has a calm, measured way of leading a side.
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs) played a smart game of rugby against the Reds, making good, quick decisions as he stepped up his leadership role even more in the absence of Aaron Cruden.
10. Both Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) and Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders) punished their respective opponents for pushing up on defence and leaving space behind the line. Barrett's cross kicks were pin point as he had a smaller target area to hit and, as is his want these days, he controlled the Hurricanes attack delightfully against a better performed opponent than Mo'unga who was just as controlling for the Crusaders, though against a remarkable insipid and at times incompetent Bulls side.
11. James Lowe (Chiefs) was quite brilliant in New Plymouth. Whether he had ball in hand or was defending, whether he was fielding a kick or carving off metres with his own strong, accurate left boot, Lowe was a key figure through the entirety of the match as the Chiefs rediscovered a portion of their collective mojo - Back of the Week. Have to mention Reiko Ioane (Blues) who was also super impressive in Sydney and while the two tries will be remembered, the young man holding up Israel Folau in a ball-and-all tackle was a standout moment.
12. Tim Bateman (Crusaders) was his typically accurate, rock solid self in anchoring the attacking performance & partnering with Jack Goodue to provide a strong defensive pairing too. Nice return by Charlie Ngatai (Chiefs) especially given what he'd been through in the preceding 364 days
13. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) followed up his efforts in Bloemfontein last week with another excellent all round outing in Pretoria despite the questionable standard of opposition. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) continues to be reliable for his team though more on defence than attack.
14. Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) played a decisive role in the Highlanders come-from-behind win in the defence optional game in Bloemfontein and claims the Russell Westbrook Stat Line of the Week award with 16 carries for 129 metres made, 12 defenders beaten, 4 line breaks, 3 off loads and 2 tries including the match winner.
15. While he had a rare off night from the kicking tee Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes) did everything else to an outstanding level. The try in the 16th minute a reminder to all to never give up on a play, the flick pass to keep the play alive for Julian Savea's try eight minutes later showed great awareness while he was sold and put himself in good positions on defence.
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