Super Rugby round 19 team of the week
July 8, 2013
Kieran Read would have taken out Brett McKay's Player of the Week award © Getty Images
Bulls 20 - 19 Sharks Southern Kings 12 - 24 Stormers Cheetahs 34 - 13 Blues Hurricanes 44 - 49 Highlanders Crusaders 43 - 15 Chiefs
The penultimate round of Super Rugby has been run and won, though Australian eyes might not have realised this, with Round 19 again being played only in New Zealand and South Africa. The Australian conference resumes this coming weekend, for the last full round before the play-offs.
The Round 19 TotW has been selected, and as always, you can have your say on my picks in the comments below, or using the #ScrumFive and #TotW hashtags on Twitter.
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders) I seem to have written this about a few players this year, and once again we have the situation of a player confirming his plans for the immediate future and then starring in the game that follows. This was Dagg's best game for the Crusaders this year by some margin, and was an ominous warning for the play-offs and the Rugby Championship. Simply, he's back to his running and skilful best.
14. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) I mentioned on Monday in Scrum Five that "it should come as no surprise that the Cheetahs have played well again in a game in which le Roux spent a lot of time at first receiver" and it's obviously a plan of the Cheetahs for him to roam in and out of first receiver like he does. Le Roux has great attacking vision when playing this role, but more importantly, he also has time. He will be a key factor if the Cheetahs have playoff success.
13. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) I've asked the question before if there is a more underrated centre in New Zealand than Ryan Crotty, and nothing has changed my opinion of him, even having moved to outside-centre this year to accommodate the very promising Tom Taylor at No.12. Showed great hands to get the pass away from Dagg's try, and then rewarded himself later in the match, with some determined footwork getting him over in the corner.
12. Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs) Another superb performance in defence from Ebersohn, with a lot of the Blues "big boppers" coming his way for most of the game. More than handy in attack though, too, where he made good ground consistently and asked plenty of questions of the Blues defenders.
11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders) Showed all of his class in the first half, where at times he seemed to be cutting the Hurricanes apart for fun, and with little more than a thought, rather than actual body movement. Grabbed a try for himself in the second half after cleverly bumping off a defender and putting the foot down and beating Beauden Barrett cold.
10. Dan Carter (Crusaders) Again. And I bet this isn't the last time for 2013, either. His control of the game is exemplary these days, and the worrying sign for opposition teams is that his running game is back to its very best. The complete player; always has been, still is now. Became the first player to crack 1500 points in Super Rugby, not that you'd have known from his reaction on the field.
9. Aaron Smith (Highlanders) A strong game from the All Black No.9, certainly his best for the Highlanders in a little while. He let himself down somewhat with his yellow-card infringement in the second half, but he kept the Highlanders on the front foot all night with his swift service, and made more than handy inroads himself with his sniping runs.
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders) I don't give out a Player of the Week award, but if I did, I'm pretty confident Read would've wrapped it up this week after a mind-blowingly superb game against the Highlanders, after a rest the week before. Back to his wide-running best, as shown in his second try, but his work in tight cannot be underestimated either, best demonstrated by his first try.
Crusaders players dominate the Team of the Week after their crushing victory%]
7. Deon Fourie (Stormers) Another backrower scoring a double this week, with both Fourie's tries coming via rolling mauls. Each one took great advantage of his ability to play hooker and openside equally effectively, with one coming when he led the charge, the other from off the back.
6. Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs) If it's no surprise the Cheetahs have done well with Willie le Roux running in midfield, the sight of Lappies Labuschagne ripping into the breakdown, and into contact with ball in hand is equally unsurprising. Looks a better player already for his Springboks squad involvement.
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) Controlled the lineout superbly against some pretty tough opposition, in Chiefs pair Craig Clarke and Brodie Retallick. Whitelock called it to himself when it needed to be called, but also took smarter options to other jumpers when he was well covered. The next great All Blacks lock?
4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) Another strong game from the overly-abrasive young Springboks lock. Was front and centre in both rolling mauls for Fourie's tries, even getting there for the final surge over the line when Fourie broke off for his second. Already a hard runner, and doesn't hold back in defence, either.
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) Rock solid up front for the men from Christchurch, provided a very useful platform from which the Crusaders didn't just take advantage, they completely wiped the floor of the Chiefs.
2. Corey Flynn (Crusaders) Just as solid as his front-row mate, and was just as effective around the park as he was at lineout and scrum set pieces. Another quality game for the newly-crowned Crusaders record holder for most appearances.
1 Ben Franks (Highlanders) Prop scores try! And the first set of brothers in a TotW! I'm sure over time the length Franks had to run for his try will increase, and I'm sure there will be little mention of the fact he was standing on the wing waiting to take advantage of the Highlanders being one man down at the time. Mere details...
Notable mentions: Julian Savea (Hurricanes winger), Johann Sadie (Cheetahs outside centre) Butch James (Sharks fly-half), Andy Ellis (Crusaders scrum-half), Dewald Potgieter (Bulls No.8), Craig Clarke (Chiefs lock), Ash Dixon (Hurricanes hooker)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton