There were wins for the All Blacks and Springboks in Round 1 of the Rugby Championship, but who stood out to make our combined Team of the Week?
15. Ben Smith
The All Blacks fullback was at his sweet-stepping best in the win over the Wallabies. Smith eventually shifted to the right wing following Rieko Ioane’s departure, but he had already cut Australia to pieces. The veteran custodian made five clean breaks on 15 runs for 92 metres, adding five tackle busts and three offloads just for good measure.
14. Waisake Naholo
A contentious selection ahead of Bledisloe I, Naholo on Saturday turned in one of his best performances in the black jersey to date. The Highlanders winger was also forced into a reshuffle, switching from the right wing to the left, but it seemed to spark him into action as he picked up a second-half double.
13. Jack Goodhue
Having lost centre partner Ryan Crotty via some friendly fire for which he was responsible, one could have forgiven Goodhue for a less than stellar performance. But he instead took it upon himself to spearhead the world champions’ midfield attack, cementing his position in the All Blacks’ backline in the process. Brodie Retallick was a worthy Man of the Match, but Goodhue can’t have been far behind.
12. Anton Lienert-Brown
Beauden Barrett would reveal post-match that Lienert-Brown had run one play at inside centre at training last week, but you wouldn’t have picked that after the Chiefs midfielder was brought on as the replacement for Crotty. Lienert-Brown barely put a foot wrong in his 67-minute showing; Steve Hansen will be tempted to leave him there this week.
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi
It’s been a rapid rise for Dyantyi, given he was yet to make his Super Rugby debut at the start of 2018. But having established himself as a Lions regular, Dyantyi has graduated to the Springboks setup where he looks right at home. Against the Pumas in Durban, Dyanti demonstrated sharp footwork and lightning speed in a serious of surging runs, picking up a double in the process.
10. Beauden Barrett
There were some errors in general play, particularly in the first half, but Barrett produced two moments of brilliance to be the standout fly-half in Round 1. The first came after Dane Haylett-Petty spilled a simple pass, Barrett toeing ahead three times to touch down under pressure from Will Genia. Later in the second half, Barrett produced a classic “eyes-up” play in dropping a left-foot kick in behind the Wallabies that Naholo chased down to score.
9. Faf de Klerk
The Springboks scrum-half may have thrown a couple of wobbly passes, but two try-assists and a well-taken five-pointer close to the line were enough for de Klerk to pip Aaron Smith. De Klerk may not possess Smith’s slick service, but he is just as busy on attack and clearly has the vision to provide for those around him.
8. Warren Whiteley
The former Test skipper looks to be getting back to his best after an injury-interrupted 18 months. Whiteley was a nuisance at the breakdown against the Pumas, and a strong contributor in both attack and defence as he registered nine runs for 35 metres as well as 14 tackles.
7. Siya Kolisi
The Springboks captaincy appears to agree with Kolisi as he was again at the heart of their win over the Pumas having led South Africa to a 2-1 series win over England back in June. In what looks a well-balanced Springboks back-row, Kolisi popped up all over the paddock; the back-rower running for a forwards-high 42 metres in Durban. He also added a turnover and 10 tackles.
6. Francois Louw
Completing the trio of Springboks selections in the loose forwards, Louw is another South African who looks reborn under Rassie Erasmus. Louw has long been renowned for his hard-nosed defensive edge, but he also proved a threat at the breakdown against the Pumas.
5. Sam Whitelock
He may have been outshined on his 100th Test cap by teammate Brodie Retallick, but there was still a lot to like about Whitelock’s milestone match. The veteran second-rower helped upset the Wallabies’ lineout, contributing to the hosts’ seven failed throws, and added 10 tackles in defence.
4. Brodie Retallick
The praise has come thick and fast for Retallick following his performance in Sydney; every word of it completely deserved. While his dummy to Foley and subsequent run to the line made the match highlights reel, there was so much to like in the lock’s performance that a clip could have been dedicated to his efforts alone. For the record, that included an early breakdown turnover, 11 runs for 63 metres, 10 tackles and all sorts of post-match nightmares for the Wallabies lineout jumpers.
3. Frans Malherbe
A tough choice at tighthead prop this week, but given the Springboks’ scrum dominance of the Pumas Malherbe just gets the nod ahead of Owen Franks. The All Blacks prop also enjoyed a great night at set-piece, but there seem to be a little more conjecture over Jaco Peyper’s interpretations; the Springboks front-row just monstered their Pumas counterparts.
2. Malcolm Marx
The world’s standout hooker simply picked up where he’d left off in Super Rugby, winning two breakdown penalties inside 20 minutes in Durban. There were some misdirected lineout throws, which Marx will want to remedy before the Springboks meet the All Blacks, but his general play is simply magnificent. Marx was constant threat over the Pumas’ breakdown, and added eight runs for 17 metres and two clean breaks.
1. Tendai Mtawarira
The Beast is back. In what must be one of his best performances in years, Mtawarira was in the thick of the action from the opening whistle in Durban; the veteran prop helping to obliterate the Pumas scrum on multiple occasions while he rumbled into their defensive line an impressive 13 times.