Round 14 marked a pivotal stage of the 2013 Super Rugby competition, as a number of teams had a do-or-die situation awaiting them, while others had some great opportunities to pick grasp some important try-scoring opportunities.
On Friday, the Chiefs managed to win the arm-wrestle with the Hurricanes, the Stormers were stunned by a surprising Rebels side, and a shaky Sharks team defeated the Force.
Saturday saw the Waratahs pull of a great comeback, the Crusaders overcome the Blues, the Bulls trump the Highlanders, and the Cheetahs make a great impression over the Reds in Bloemfontein.
But who were the players that stood out the most?
1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders) – the Crusaders’ front-rower was solid when it came to scrum time, and was always in the engine-room of every maul and forward movement.
2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) – the Cheetahs captain continued his great form, controlling the lineouts and tight encounters to help give his backs the right attacking platform.
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) – the other Crusaders prop pairing was great, as Owen Franks bagged himself a try for all his hard work off the ball.
4 Hugh Pyle (Rebels) – the Rebels lock has racked up five tries this season – not bad for a second-rower, and Pyle has shown that he is a great ball carrier as well as being great in the lineouts.
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) – the young All Black lock was strong against the Blues, putting his head down and getting involved at nearly every breakdown throughout the game.
6. Liam Messam (Chiefs) – Messam’s form never seems to slip, and the big Chiefs flanker made some huge hits and big defensive plays that swung the game in the Chiefs’ favour.
7. Willem Alberts (Sharks) – while the Sharks grabbed the win, their overall performance was lacking. One shining light was Willem Alberts, who showed his much-needed bulldozing ability with a number of runs that left defenders in his wake.
8. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) – Higginbotham led the Rebels excellently against the Stormers and his improved discipline and even harder work ethic rewarded him with a 5-pointer.
9. Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs) – the Chief’s Tawera Kerr Barlow had a phenomenal game, but Piet van Zyl’s two fantastic tries and solid service gives him the nod for best scrumhalf of the weekend.
10. Morne Steyn (Bulls) – Morne Steyn didn’t do anything to flashy, but he’s finding a great balance between his natural kicking game and running the ball more. His goal-kicking was also great, and the flyhalf looks to be full of confidence once again.
11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders) – Guildford never found himself over the tryline, but the talented winger is increasing his midfield work rate more and more, adding a lot to the Crusaders’ attacking dynamics.
12. Berrick Barnes (Waratahs) – while Barnes only came on as a substitute in the early phases of the game, he had a monumental impact on the Waratahs, helping his side produce a surprising comeback against the Brumbies.
13. JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls) – JJ Engelbrecht is becoming one of the most well-rounded outside centres in the competition. His defence is improving dramatically, and his quick-thinking and pace rewarded him another try against the Highlanders.
14. Peter Betham (Waratahs) – the young winger is often overshadowed by the big-name stars he shares the field with, but Betham had a great game against the Brumbies, and his match-winning try was evidence of his skill.
15. Tom Taylor (Crusaders) – the Crusaders’ fullback took over the kicking duties against the Blues and did a solid job. His smart defensive work and counterattacking ability will make it hard for Israel Dagg to reclaim his number 15 jersey.