8 May 2012
Super Rugby Round 11 - Team of the Week
Once more Super Rugby gave it's fair share of thrills and spills this week with some exciting matches on offer.
Round 11 saw an absorbing grudge match between last years finalists, the Crusaders and Reds, with the men from Christchurch gaining some form of revenge for their agonising defeat last year.
The Chiefs and Bulls meanwhile continued on their seemingly unstoppable rampage at the top of the table. Their form is beginning to look ominous.
The Hurricanes showed us once more why they are probably the most attractive team to watch in the competition while the Blues showcased why they aren't...Surely Pat Lam's days as coach are numbered?
Even some of the cellar dwellars got in on the act, as the Rebels pushed hard against the Bulls to earn losing bonus points and the Cheetahs continued their suprising start to the season with a victory against the Force.
But who made Dumptackle's team of the week? Read on to see who made the cut....and why.
1. Tendai Mtwarirra (Sharks), 2. Adrian Strauss (Cheetahs), 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders), 4. Craig Clarke (Chiefs), 5. Nathan Sharpe (Force), 6. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), 7. Josh Strauss (Lions), 8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds), 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), 10. Pat Lambie (Sharks), 12. Pat McCabe, 13. Ben Smith (Highlanders), 11. Cooper Vuna (Rebels), 14. Corey Jane (Hurricanes), 15. Kurtley Beale (Rebels)
Tendai Mtwarrira and Owen Franks were the obvious candidates for the propping positions this week. Franks demolished the Reds scrum in the same fashion as last year. If only southern hemisphere referees interpreted the scrum in the same way northern hemisphere refs do, he'd be an absolute rockstar. Even without those interpretations, the Crusaders scrum is a real weapon when he plays tight-head and for my money, he's the top tog at prop in Super rugby at the moment. Mtwarirra gave a dogged display for the Sharks in his first outing of the year and that no doubt will please new Springbok coach Heineke Meyer.
At hooker, my vote went to the Cheetahs Adrian Strauss. In the political world of South African rugby, Strauss's form has led some to make calls for him to be made South Africa's captain! As neither a Bull or a Shark/Stormer, he is seen as a neutral and one to bring the different components of South African rugby together. I'm not so sure on the captaincy issue, but one thing is for certain....with performances like this he'll be pushing Bismark DuPlessis hard for a starting berth.
The same names seem to keep coming up every week in the locks. Chiefs duo Craig Clarke and Brodie Retallick keep showing who's boss every week but seeing as Retallick was missing this week, Craig Clarke gets the nod. Nathan Sharpe also gets a spot in the engine room. Sharpe seems to get better with age and his leadership qualities have really come to the fore this year. He seems to be benefitting from his retirement from international rugby and he is currently the top lineout forward in the comptetition statistically....by far.
In the forward pack, Brumbies openside Michael Hooper produced another standout display, but I couldn't leave out two South Africans who were absolutely colossal for their teams. Alistair Coetzee put his body on the line on countless occasions for the Sharks. His tackle count is outrageous and I can't believe he is not getting the credit he deserves in terms of media coverage. He's as close as you can get to a southern hemisphere Serge Betsen... or Thierry Dusautoir for younger readers. At 23 too, there's room for growth.
The other South African who made the cut is Josh Strauss. The responsibnility of the captaincy seems to bring his game to a whole new level. Carrying the ball he's outstanding and in defence he is as tough as you get. It's a pity he doesn't have much support at the Lions. His performances deserve more. If he played for the Bulls or Stormers...could be be a Springbok starter?
The number 8 position goes to Scott Higginbotham. After such a breakthrough season last year for the Reds, it's fair to say that he has been rather quiet so far this season. His display against the Crusaders on a losing side though will have done a lot for his confidence. When you consider he was up against arguably the best number 8 in world rugby in Kirean Reid, it makes his performance all the more significant.
This one was easy. Brendon Leonard has made a good comeback to the Chiefs since his injury, but the scrum half of the week was definitely young TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes. He has an electric running game and it was really on song this week. His passing is also pretty snappy; probably the second best out of the NZ scum halfs at the moment behind Aaron Smith of the Highlanders. Whether he can get a cap is debatable, given the assuredness of Any Ellis's play this year and the selectors preference for Leonard and Weepu.
There were a number of strong performances this round, particularly from fly-halfs. Pat Lambie, Aaron Cruden, Kurtley Beale and Morne Steyn all gave stellar displays, while Tom Taylor was deadly with the boot once more as he kicked all the Crusaders points in their grudge match against the Reds. In the end though I opted for Pat Lambie at 10 and with a bit of jiggery-pokery...moved Kurtley Beale to fullback. Cheating i know but it had to be done. Cruden was the unluckiest omission.
Pat McCabe again has made the team. He seems to be benefitting from the Brumbies direct approach under Jake White and his distribution is also improving. He makes Henry Speight look like a world-beater on his outside...which i'm not sure he quite is.
The other spot goes to Ben Smith. For the second week in a row he carved up the opposition on attack for the Highlanders. Admittedly he played at fullback, but given his versatility and the lack of a standout outside centre, I have inked him in at 13.
Corey Jane was back to his best for the Hurricanes this week. He is deceptively quick, balanced and has possibly the best pound for pound fend on world rugby. He has taken a back seat in recent weeks due to the emergence of his team-mate Andre Taylor at full-back, but he showed once more this week that he should be an All Black in June. NZ's best winger.
For the other spot, Cooper Vuna of the Rebels gets the nod. Henry Speight was powerful for the Brumbies but as I mentioned earlier, I think he is benefitting from playing in a solid team. Vuna doesn't have that advantage and he was electric this round. He had big raps on him when he came to the Rebels and maybe now we are beginning to see why.
Kurtley Beale. His best appearance for his new side. The Melbourne faithful had been waiting to see some spark from Kurtley after his big move from the Waratahs and it turns out all that needed to be done was to kick out a prancing Englishman and move Beale to 10. He's still playing at full back though. What can I do? I would have had to take Lambie out and that's not going to happen!