Nine talking points from super rugby, and a team picked only on form in the weekend.
GAME OF THE ROUND
Usually I'd agree with Steve Hansen that a draw is like kissing your sister, but the 31-all draw the Chiefs and the Highlanders fought out in Dunedin was so dramatic, dynamic, and gutsy, it was exhausting just to watch. The Chiefs' effort, and how they kept fighting back was "Rocky" in rugby jerseys.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
Chiefs flanker Luke Jacobson. The former New Zealand under-20 player has been in good form, but in Dunedin he did so much, from bruising defence to a superb offload that sparked the Tyler Ardron try in the 68th minute, you wanted to look closely to make sure he didn't have an identical twin brother on the field with him.
Ben Smith being helped off the field when in a legal, but brutal, collision with Jacobson, Smith's left knee was bent back to a sickening angle. Smith is a remarkable footballer, and, with his versatility, a solid gold first round pick for the World Cup. No wonder coach Hansen was sideline straight after the game to check on him. Fingers crossed that coach Aaron Mauger is 100 per cent right when he described the leg injury as "just a soft tissue" injury which should soon mend.
MORE GAS THAN THE MAUI GAS FIELD
As an All Black selector when Laurie Mains was the All Black coach, Earle Kirton, himself once a brilliantly fast first-five, rarely discussed a player he liked without mentioning that the guy had "gas", Earle's word for speed. "You can't manufacture it," he'd say, "and it's crucial." In the Hurricanes 29-19 win over the Rebels in Wellington, Beauden Barrett showed yet again that when it comes to gas, he's the quickest 10 in world rugby.
TRY OF THE WEEKEND
All Blacks' big compromise: The real story behind Whitelock's contract
'Good people will miss out': Hansen on challenges of World Cup year
Five minutes into the game, Canes second-five Ngani Laumape hits a perfectly timed Beauden Barrett pass 38 metres from the Rebels' line, and sweeps past three tacklers as if he's playing Rippa rugby. Laumape on the burst is a sight for the ages.
HAVE A YARN WITH THE WARRIORS ONE DAY ABOUT HOW FAIR A GO THEY GET IN AUSTRALIA
As they say in the classics, the Brumbies beating the Blues 26-21 in Canberra was a pretty good game. A pity referee Damon Murphy missed it. In the course of awarding 11 consecutive penalties to the Brumbies late in the first half, rookie ref Murphy believed Blake Gibson had made a high tackle, when he was actually stripping a ball. The penalty from that led to a crucial try to James Slipper. The people who run SANZAAR need to loosen the damn purse strings and have neutral referees. Justice should not only be done, but be seen to be done.
SADLY, THIS IS HOW A LOT OF WORLD CUPS ARE WON
The 21-all draw between the Crusaders and the Sharks in Christchurch was a grim reminder that the only team to have ever won a World Cup by scoring a bunch of tries is New Zealand. In 1987 the All Blacks scored three tries in the final, and they scored three again in 2015. South Africa have won two World Cups, in 1995 and 2007, without scoring a single try. Curwin Bosch is a terrific kicker, the Sharks forwards were big and tough, but seven Bosch penalty goals against three tries told you all you needed to know about the mindset of the two teams. Fingers crossed that the World Cup in Japan won't be played on a wet, slippery surface with a whistle-happy referee.
SADLY, THIS HOW A LOT OF WORLD CUPS ARE WON, PART II
If there's an Achilles heel in the Blues it's goal kicking. Missed kicks cost a draw, or even a stunning win, over the Crusaders in the opening round, and if Otere Black's kicking had been on song in the first half in Canberra the Brumbies may well have been beaten.
"MAN MAKES PLANS, AND THE GODS LAUGH"
The prospect of checking out the combination of Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor in the midfield for the Crusaders was one of the most fascinating elements in the weekend. In reality, we only got a scratchy 31-minute glimpse before Will Jordan had to leave the field injured, and the duo were back to playing at centre and wing. If they get a start against the Bulls in Pretoria next weekend, on what will almost certainly be a bone dry ground, it may then be a case of being able to say we have seen the future of the All Black backline.
Finally, a squad picked only on form in the weekend:
Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Right wing: Wes Goosen (Hurricanes)
Centre: Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Left wing: George Bridge (Crusaders)
Second five: Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)
First five: Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
Halfback: Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
No.8: Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Flanker: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
Flanker: Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)
Lock: Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)
Lock: Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
Tighthead prop: Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders)
Hooker: Nathan Harris (Chiefs)
Loosehead prop: Angus Ta'avao (Chiefs)
Reserves: Caleb Clarke (Blues), Josh Ioane (Highlanders), Brad Weber (Chiefs), Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes), Tom Franklin (Highlanders), Joe Moody (Crusaders), Nepo Laulala (Chiefs), Liam Coltman (Highlanders).