The first round of Super Rugby is done and dusted with great start to their campaigns made by four of the five kiwi franchises.
As he will do for right throughout the 2017 Super Rugby season, Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden fired up the coffee machine, cracked open a pack of chocolate chip cookies and watched all the action from the opening weekend of season in order to select his NZ Form Team of the Week:
1. Kane Hames (Chiefs)
His defence (13 tackles made) in and around the fringes was mighty while he was solid in the scrums and industrious around the field.
2. Ben Funnell (Crusaders)
On a weekend that all the NZ hookers who ran out were solid though hardly set the world on fire, Funnell was just all more active around the park whilst scrumming and throwing with accuracy.
3. Siate Tokolahi (Highlanders)
Part of a robust and very even scrum battle with Kane Hames, carried the ball strongly and provided excellent support with quality cleanout work at the breakdowns.
4. Alex Ainley (Highlanders)
Even though they didn't have to do much defending (82 tackles total); Ainley was the leader for the Highlanders in that area with 12. On attack he, like Tokolahi, was great in doing the dirty work in and around the breakdowns
5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
At his cyborg like best straight out the gate. He bought the usual; massive work rate, huge physicality, made smart decisions and the high standard never dropped for a second from first whistle to last - Forward of the Week
6. Jordan Taufua (Crusaders)
As has become the norm, Taufua was immense during his sides win over the Brumbies. In addition to his consistency of play, Taufua is getting involved at times when his team needs him to be involved. Tough choice between Taufua and Steven Luatua (Blues) as Luatua was top drawer as well
7. Blake Gibson (Blues)
Sometimes it's not about standing out as an individual. Gibson did a bunch of work on Thursday night and those efforts complimented what his fellow loose forwards were doing, allowing them to be more prominent and influential for their team.
8. Liam Squire (Highlanders)
He was one of the best on the park in a losing effort in Dunedin, bringing a seriously staunch edge to the game. He played like a man who knew he was one of the best on the park, rather than someone who has to be told he is. His opposite Liam Messam (Chiefs) was his typically unrelenting self as well and it's so good to have him back in the competition on the full time basis.
9. Augustine Pulu (Blues)
Took advantage of the beautiful ride given to him by the Blues pack to showcase his all round game and combine well with Ihaia West to direct the Blues with aplomb in Melbourne. His try was a belter & he's only going to get better with the regular game time afforded the number one halfback at a franchise.
10. Ihaia West (Blues)
In tandem with Pulu, West directed and controlled the game in an understated yet very efficient manner. He made great decisions right throughout the encounter as to whether to run, pass or kick and did all with good accuracy.
11. James Lowe (Chiefs)
Made two big plays for two intercept tries and those early strikes were pivotal in the outcome of the game. Those moments get Lowe the nod ahead of Tevita Li (Highlanders) who was busy, incisive and physical in his debut game for his new franchise.
12. Rob Thompson (Highlanders)
In a back line peppered with All Blacks, it was Thompson and fellow non-AB Tevita Li who stood out prominently. Thompson took on the opposition line to good effect and formed an excellent combination with Fekitoa defensively.
13. Reiko Ioane (Blues)
Every time this young man steps foot on a rugby field, he proves himself to be worthy (and then some) of the hype and expectation that surrounds him. His 9 ball carries yielded 5 clean line breaks, 144 metres gained and he had a try assist to go with his own hat trick of tries - NZ Back of the Week
14. Matt Duffie (Blues)
Good involvement, excellent in the kick/chase game, finished off his try nicely and most importantly when assessing right wings this week, was virtually error free, unlike others who blotted their copy books with silly, often poorly timed, mistakes.
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders)
An outstanding all round display in his 100th Super Rugby appearance. Dagg was excellent on attack, both when he step into the first receiver role & when ranging wide; defensively was well positioned and typically solid.
PS - If you were expecting a horde of Hurricanes in this team, well that was never going to happen after that first hour in Tokyo ... and if you're expecting me to apologise for that, well that's not going to happen either - have a great week.
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