The international season kicked off this weekend and there were some impressive matchups, with the All Blacks overcoming a spirited French side, Samoa defeating Scotland, England beating out the Argentinians, Ireland taking on the USA and the Springboks coming out on top against the Italians.
The encounters saw a number of players put their hands up, demonstrating exactly why they were chosen
1. Logovii Mulipola (Samoa) – the Samoan front-row were immense against the Scots, pushing them back at scrum-time with ease, and Mulipola was a big catalyst for that, while also appearing everywhere on the field, putting in some great runs.
2. Adriaan Strauss (South Africa) – the Springboks’ vice-captain was great, and his try was a fair reward. The Boks dominated the lineouts thanks to Strauss’ straight throws and his carries were powerful and direct.
3. Census Johnston (Samoa) – the Samoan veteran paired well with his fellow front-rowers, but it was his deft touches and offloads that made him stand out.
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) – once again, Etzebeth’s contributions were noticeable from the start. His lineout height makes him untouchable, and he left many Italians on their backsides with his devastating runs.
5. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand) – the young All Black rose to the occasion excellently, competing against some big French forwards and doing all the hard work necessary.
6. Thierry Dusautoir (France) – Captain Courageous couldn’t get the win for his side, but his dedication and perseverance is unmatched, as he tackled furiously beyond the sound of the siren.
7. Sam Cane (New Zealand) – the absence of Ritchie McCaw has been drastically dimished thanks to Sam Cane. The young Chiefs’ flanker has grown immensely, and dominated the loose trio battle against the French.
8. Ben Morgan (England) – Samoa’s Taiasina Tuifua was a devastating force, but England’s Ben Morgan got the opportunity to shine against Argentina. He made a number of great line-breaks and offloads throughout the match.
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand) – Aaron Smith has established himself as the leading scrumhalf in New Zealand, and his performance against the French showed his class and ability to always follow the ball in support.
10. Tusiata Pisi (Samoa) – Pisi had a good game against the Scottish, and although he didn’t do anything flashy, he made all the right decisions with ball-in-hand and clamed things down when he needed to – something the Samoans have been needing to embrace.
11. Bryan Habana (South Africa) – the 29-year old seems to be finding the form he’s so desperately been looking for. Habana had a crucial midfield line-break that led to JJ Engelbrecht’s try, and his own 5-pointer was a great swerving run that he has become known for.
12. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand) – Nonu is an enigma. He can underperform in Super Rugby all season, but put a black jersey on him and he becomes the most dangerous centre in the world. Nonu was powerful in attack and defence against the French, cutting through them a number of times and putting in some big hits.
13. Florian Fritz (France) – the big French centre has great, even against the solid defence of Conrad Smith. He had some great runs and his set-up for Wesley Fofana was perfectly executed.
14. Ben Smith (New Zealand) – whether on the wing or at fullback, Ben Smith’s ability to counterattack and break the line at will is unrivalled. With the great performance against the French, he’s finally getting the attention he deserves.
15. Willie le Roux (South Africa) – there was a lot of hype around Willie le Roux’s Springbok inclusion, and he lived up to the hype. Every time he touched the ball, he made something happen, and didn’t miss a tackle when it mattered most.