It was a bit of a mixed bag from the Kiwi franchises in Super Rugby this weekend; a game of two halves in Hamilton, another cracking Southern Derby in Dunedin but sadly the Blues just couldn't do it for a second week in a row in Cape Town.
Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden watched it all before firing up the coffee peculator, tearing open the gingernuts and selecting his New Zealand Form Team of the Week:
1 The front row injuries at the Chiefs meant Aiden Ross (Chiefs) had to go a lot deeper into the game than usual but he stuck to his task very well as he got through a good amount of work; scrummaging getting better with every start at this level.
2 Codie Taylor (Crusaders) has been one of the best players in the early stages of Super Rugby and continued his impressive start to the season with another excellent showing.
3 You don't often see a tighthead prop play an entire game these days, with 60 minutes the most they seem to get. However Angus Ta'avao (Chiefs) produced a high quality 80 minute effort in all areas to highlight why coach Colin Cooper holds him in such high regard.
4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) is back doing Brodie Retallick things at a Brodie Retallick level & that is awesome to see … more please big fella – Forward of the Week.
5 A typically industrious effort from Tom Franklin (Highlanders) topping the tackle count with 18 (from 18 attempts) and while he didn't gain a truck load of metres, he was a very willing ball carrier on 10 occasions.
6 Elliot Dixon (Highlanders) was outstanding during his 40 minutes of work after stepping in for the injured Liam Squire. With or without the ball, Dixon was never far from the actiona as he showed the sort of form that made him an All Black; reliable lineout option too. Top effort as well from Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Crusaders) - as his coach likes to say about him "he tough!"
7 Dillon Hunt (Highlanders)
has a serious motor on him and used it to good effect as he was a constant presence and irritant in and around the break down.
8 No-one is ever going to accuse Luke Whitelock (Highlanders) of playing extravagant rugby, however he is the perfect of number eight for this side, grinding away at the coal face from first whistle to last, as he did yet again at the weekend.
9 Aaron Smith's (Highlanders) early season Super Rugby form is as good as we have seen from him in his career; yet another brilliant effort on Saturday night in Dunedin.
10 He wasn't spectacular, but Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders) didn't need to be. He was very controlling and efficient as the firm of Smith Smith and Sopoaga guided the Highlanders to victory.
11 The numbers tell the story of Tevita Li's (Highlanders) in impact on the final result of the Southern Derby; 9 carries for 117 metres including 3 clean line breaks, 8 defenders beaten, 3 off loads & he won a turnover; superb in all areas – Back of the Week. George Bridge's (Crusaders) effort in a beaten cause is also well worth a mention.
I liked the performances of both second fives in Dunedin but feel that
Tim Bateman (Crusaders)
was marginally better than Tei Walden (Highlanders) though very, very little in it.
13 Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) was at his accurate best in his best outing of the season to date. On attack, he ran hard and strong (4 line breaks) while defensively he made some telling tackles.
14 While play ran more towards the opposite wing, Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) was very effective with the opportunities that were presented to him.
15 David Havili (Crusaders) and Ben Smith (Highlanders) put on a fullbacks clinic in the Southern Derby, showing excellence in all facets of playing the position. Try and split them if you must, but in my opinion that would be insulting to their respective efforts.
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks