Super Rugby kicked off with a bang this past weekend, with the 2016 edition of the tournament producing some unbelievable running rugby and incredible tries; but in the spirit of praising those who stood tallest, here’s our picks for the players of the week:
1. Keith Inagaki (Sunwolves) – The Super Rugby newcomers proved to be quite the match for the Lions. Despite the loss, players like Keith Inagaki showed their potency, with the prop acting as a powerful battering ram and brutal force in the scrum that wore down the Lions.
2. Agustín Creevy (Jaguares) – The Jaguares couldn’t have asked for a more spirited captain, as the Argentine international lead from the front with a brilliant performance to secure a debut win for the side. His step and back-of-the-hand pass to set up Martín Landajo’s try was pure class.
3. Coenie Oosthuizen (Sharks) – The Cheetahs’ have recruited well in the off-season, and Coenie Ooshuizen seems to have settled well into the Durban side. In trademark style, Oosthuizen proved tough to put down and the giant prop made some notable contributions at scrum-time too.
4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) – South Africa’s hardman of rugby got his new Super Rugby season off to a bang. The Stormers lock bagged himself a try and once again stomped his authority as an intimidating defensive wall.
5. Franco Mostert (Lions) – Mostert is easily one of the hardest working forwards out there, and the Lions No. 5 threw his body into every tackle, maul, and ruck he came across. His work-rate throughout his stint was impressive.
6. Jaco Kriel (Lions) – Continuing his brilliant Currie Cup form, Jaco Kriel got his Super Rugby season underway with another standout performance. Kriel scored one try and came close to one or two more. His ability to slip through tackles and overpower opponents in the tight moments is unparalleled.
7. Blake Gibson (Blues) – Powerful young flank Blake Gibson scored the Blues’ second five-pointer in the 25th minute when he bulldozed his way past four defenders and continued his impressive work-rate for the remainder of his time of the field.
8. Warren Whiteley (Lions) – The Lions captain showcased his leadership qualities by creating the example, making all his tackles, carrying the ball strongly, and linking up with his fellow forwards and backs, helping Jaco Kriel score thanks to a brilliant offload.
9. Nick Phipps (Waratahs) – The Waratahs scrumhalf was in a league of his own against the Reds, with solid delivery to his forwards and backs, along with some great pieces of skill that lead to a try, and a fantastic chase to score a try himself.
10. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) – Some great performances in the No. 10 jersey this weekend, but Beale’s ability to turn defence into attack and run the show with composure put him above the rest. He also made an incredible try-saving tackle that helped boost the home side’s momentum.
11. Courtnall Skosan (Lions) – There were some great left-wing performances over the weekend, but Skosan’s constant hunting and work in the middle of the field elevated him above the rest. His speed to finish his try following a great break thanks to a clever pass from Elton Jantjies, showed exactly what the Lions speedster can do in open space.
12. David Horwitz (Waratahs) – A sterling debut for the new Waratahs centre. Horwitz scored a great try, showcased some reliable defence, and ran some good lines in attack. Horwitz will undoubtedly be a solid link in the No. 12 jersey for the Waratahs’ season.
13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders) – The Highlanders’ potent strike weapon was a force to be reckoned, slipping through defenders every time he had the ball, and absolutely ferocious on defence.
14. Odwa Ndungane (Sharks) – The Sharks’ veteran winger showed he still has some gas in the tank, scoring two great tries and causing the Kings’ defence a lot of problems throughout the match in PE. His support play is still as good as ever and his defence was worth noting too.
15. Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) – McKenzie’s breakthrough seasoncame courtesy of AaronCruden’s knee injury and, as a result,the pair had rarely played together. But in Christchurch, McKenzie and Cruden showed just how effective they can be in the same XV. The fullback excelled in all facets, and it was his willingness to play at first receiver that will pose problems for opposing defences.
Who do you think deserves to make the team? Let us know in the comments section below and tweet us @MenStuffZA.