Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Who's hot and who's not - week 11

Tim Nanai-Williams scored a try in each half and saved a certain Sharks' score when sprinting back in defence. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Nanai-Williams scored a try in each half and saved a certain Sharks' score when sprinting back in defence. Photo / Getty Images

Patrick McKendry names the top back, standout forward and the four in-form teams from the weekend's Super 15 action.

Back of week:
Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs)
A performance which showcased everything good about Nanai-Williams. When asked early in the season about how he could turn himself into a centre, the former outside back talked about his footwork and aggressiveness. He could also have mentioned his speed and uncanny sense of being in the right place at the right time, two things which can't be taught. Nanai-Williams scored a try in each half and saved a certain Sharks' score when sprinting back in defence. He's tough too, quickly shaking off an illegal Francois Steyn ruck clean-out to the head for which the Sharks centre was cited.

Forward of week:
Lubabalo Mtembu (Sharks)
Another player to impress at Waikato Stadium, Mtembu was everywhere for the Sharks once they put a horror first 20 minutes behind them.

A 22-year-old former South Africa sevens specialist, No8 Mtembu ran a nice line off first-five Pat Lambie to score the Sharks' second try and was superb at the breakdown, picking his moments expertly to go for turnovers - and he got several. He also began to show up on defence as the Sharks became more connected. Not bad for a youngster making his starting debut.

Coach killer:
Ben Franks (Hurricanes)
With Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush in the sinbin for collapsing a maul as the Stormers capitalised on their lineout drive dominance close to the Hurricanes' line, Franks quickly collapsed a maul, but got away with it. Minutes later, offside and off his feet, he put a sneaky hand in a ruck to disturb the Stormers' ball. He got away with it, referee Steve Walsh unsighted, and, adding insult to injury, ruling it a knock-on and Hurricanes' scrum feed. Although they lost the match anyway, the Hurricanes could easily have been two forwards down and could have missed out on their bonus point. Their discipline will have to improve on their two-match tour of South Africa.

Fab four

Chiefs
Won 37-29 v Sharks, Waikato Stadium
2nd overall, 1st in NZC
Any sort of win would have sufficed for the Chiefs, who have stuttered in the past fortnight when losing to the Reds and Waratahs. In the end it was a bonus point victory and one of the most thrilling of a weekend which had several highlights. They looked unstoppable in scoring three converted tries in the opening 20 minutes, the visitors looking like the proverbial possums in headlights. Back came the Sharks, only for first-five Aaron Cruden to work his magic at the start of the second half and slow their momentum. The win leapfrogged them above the Blues on the NZ conference.

Blues
Lost 12-11 v Reds, Suncorp Stadium
5th overall, 2nd in NZC
The immediate impression when watching the Blues in Brisbane was how well coached they looked. Every player appeared to know his role and played it almost to perfection. Sir John Kirwan and Co have this mainly young group of players playing to their potential and with confidence. What a change from last season. The Blues deserved to win this match and not only for their ambition and strict adherence to their keep-the-ball-at-all-costs game plan. In the dying moments as the Blues launched a last attack, several Reds defenders were metres offside from a ruck just to the left of the posts.

Stormers
Won 18-16 v Hurricanes, FMG Stadium
9th overall, 4th in SAC
Even with Springboks lock Andries Bekker having an off night, the Stormers' lineout was far superior to the Hurricanes - the only surprise was that they didn't go to it more often. In scoring from a lineout drive into the strong wind in the first half, the Stormers would have created doubt in the minds of the Hurricanes' players. Leading only 11-7, it was never likely to be enough. The way the first half finished also added to the spring in the Stormers' steps - wing Bryan Habana charging down Beauden Barrett's attempted conversion. It was an important intervention.

Sharks
Lost 37-29 v Chiefs, Waikato Stadium
8th overall, 3rd in SAC
Once the Sharks learned how to tackle all over again they added to a thrilling spectacle in the Tron. In scoring four tries - the same as the Chiefs - they made a mockery of the theory they had forgotten how to score five-pointers. The evidence, though, was compelling. In their past three matches, a victory over the Crusaders and losses to the Stormers and Cheetahs, the Sharks have failed to cross the opposition's try-line. They did it five times on Saturday - one try was ruled out for a forward pass. John Plumtree's men will want to maintain similar standards against the Highlanders next Saturday.

Form XV
15) Charles Piutau (Blues)
14) Frank Halai (Blues)
13) Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs)
12) Jackson Willison (Blues)
11) Aseali Tikoirotuma (Chiefs)
10) Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
9) PIri Weepu (Blues)
8) Peter Saili (Blues)
7) Luke Braid (Blues)
6) Brad Shields (Hurricanes)
5) Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
4) Luke Romano (Crusaders)
3) Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2) Mahonri Schwalger (Chiefs)
1) Tom McCartney (Blues)

- APNZ

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