Round 9 of the 2013 Super Rugby tournament saw a few surprises, as a number of teams seized some well-deserved victories against the odds.
The Blues’ win over the Hurricanes, the Kings’ last minute clincher against the Rebels, and the Force’s surprise against the Crusaders, along with all the other matches, produced some great individual performances; but which players stood out the most?
1. Ben Franks (Hurricanes) – while the Hurricanes never got the win, Ben Franks had an impressive game. He scrummed well, carried strongly and didn’t back down from any tackle, even chasing down Blues winger Frank Halai.
2. Deon Fourie (Stormers) – Fourie had a great game against the Sharks and carried the ball excellently, showing his versatility as a loose forward option.
3. Salesi Ma’afu (Western Force) – the Force front-rower is often overlooked, but Ma’afu stood up against the best of the bunch, the Crusaders front row, and showed he has what it takes to face off against the best.
4. Peter Kimlin (Brumbies) – the giant Brumbies forward plays his heart out, whether he’s in the middle or on the side of the scrum. Kimlin’s attacking and defensive abilities must be making Robbie Deans sit up.
5. James Horwill (Reds) – the Reds captain had another great game and led by example. His hard work in the tight encounters always gave space for the flashy Reds backline.
6. Ben McCalman (Western Force) – McCalman was immense and managed to outshine the impressive Crusaders loose trio. McCalman and Hodgson work incredibly well together, and could find themselves in the Wallaby squad.
7. Wimpie van der Walt (Southern Kings) – the Kings delivered another last-minute win, and Wimpie van der Walt was behind every big tackle and ball carry – causing chaos for the Rebels and always first at the breakdown in support.
8. Jake Schatz – (Reds) the big Reds number 8 has become an integral part of the forward pack, showing that he has the strength and vision to make Higginbotham’s old jersey his own.
9. Piri Weepu (Blues) – when Weepu plays well, the Blues play well, as he organised the forwards excellently, added some speed on the ball and generally made himself a nuisance for the Hurricanes.
10. Chris Noakes (Blues) – Noakes was great against the Hurricanes, making his kicks and throwing some excellent outside and inside passes to put the strong ball-runners in space.
11. Rene Ranger (Blues) – whether Ranger is on the wing or in the centre, he makes defenders pay dearly. The strong and feisty Ranger did no wrong and made sure his team always kept moving forward.
12. Jackson Willison (Blues) – Willison has stepped into centre excellently for the Blues, and managed to top the physicality and excellence of the Hurricanes’ backs.
13. Juan De Jongh (Stormers) – the young Stormers centre was once again and elusive and powerful, scoring a great try for himself, as well as making some big tackles.
14. Henry Speight (Brumbies) – Speight is undoubtedly the in-form winger in Australia, and the Fijian-born flyer made Hosea Gear, one of the world’s best, look underwhelming throughout the game.
15. Charles Piutau (Blues) – the Blues fullback delivered magic every time he touched the ball, looking to break the line at will and joining and injecting pace into the backline at exactly the right time.