Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, Planet Rugby pick out the stand-out performers of Round Two in the Rugby Championship.
After putting a record score past the Wallabies, the All Blacks naturally dominate our selection this week. A few names from the Pumas too after a string display in Salta.
Rugby Championship Team of the Week: Round Two
15 Joaquín Tuculet (Argentina): A well-taken try and some excellent running sees the Puma pip Ben Smith for our 15 jersey. Tuculet beat five defenders and his tactical kicking was intelligent.
14 Cornal Hendricks (South Africa): As crucial tries goes, Hendricks’ score around the hour mark will go down as one of the most influential in any game, anywhere, this year. The former Sevens man took his chance brilliantly and it swung the tide in the Boks’ favour.
13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand): Missed in Sydney, ‘Snake’ was back to play his part in a stellar performance from New Zealand’s backs against Australia. Few can time and deliver passes better than he does. Consistently excellent.
12 Ryan Crotty (New Zealand): Forced to withdraw at half-time with a facial fracture that will keep him out for four weeks, Crotty still did enough to make the cut. The Crusaders beat four defenders and showed exquisite handling during his time on the park in his first start. Juan Martín Hernández deserves credit for looking back to his best against South Africa, while Matt Toomua was one of few Wallabies to emerge with some credit to his name.
11 Julian Savea(New Zealand): Three clean breaks and try for the All Black flyer who now sits on an incredible 23 tries from 23 Tests. He made over 100m with ball in hand at Eden Park as the Kiwis backs ran rampant.
10 Nicolás Sánchez (Argentina): A close call at fly-half as Aaron Cruden was a very strong contender. But Sánchez is our pick for the second straight week for the way he attacked the Bok defensive line, breaking through or setting his teammates clear for more often than we’re used to seeing from Argentina.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): Relentless. Smith showed no signs of slowing down in a turbocharged performance in Auckland. His speed from ruck to ruck and persistence in playing a high tempo game led to Australia unravelling. His best game for New Zealand.
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand): After a disappointing performance in Sydney, Read came storming back on home soil with classic display, scoring a try along the way. A mention for Juan Manuel Leguizamón, who worked hard, making 11 carries.
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand): Amazingly only received his second ever yellow card in Tests. It didn’t have any damage either, with the All Blacks actually kicking on without their captain. Back on he came and added two tries from rolling mauls in the second half to secure his spot in the side. Not slowing down yet. Mentions for Michael Hooper, Australia’s best player who scored a sensational try, along with Francois Louw.
6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Argentina): Due to the presence of McCaw we’ve shifted Argentina’s inspirational flanker to the blindside. Lobbe’s form just never dips and in Salta he was tricky to contain when on the charge, while also starring at the lineout.
5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): Another week, another pick for Whitelock. 12 tackles, six lineout takes and an assist. The guy picks himself. He did miss one tackle, but we’ll let him off.
4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand): The player of the round. Retallick’s athleticism and fitness considering he’s over two metres tall at times defied belief. Similar in many ways to Whitelock, the fact that he’s only 23 is terrifying. No Kiwi forward made more metres and a couple of offloads underline his skills.
3 Ramiro Herrera (Argentina): After dominating Beast Mtawarira last week, Herrera did the same to Gurthro Steenkamp as the Argentine scrum sent a strong message out to the Wallabies and All Blacks: The set will be a battle against los Pumas.
2 Dane Coles (New Zealand): Also his best performance for the world champions. Coles was playing on fast forward at Eden Park, carrying eight times, beating defenders and making offloads. The All Blacks lineout went 14/0 and he was in the heart of a scrum that decimated the Wallabies. A mention for Agustín Creevy, who carried well.
1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina): Another impressive display from the Leicester loosehead, who thrashed Jannie du Plessis in the scrums and made himself useful and around the park, making more tackle and more metres than any other prop in Salta.
- Planet Rugby