Super Rugby round 20 team of the week
July 15, 2013
Hurricanes winger Julian Savea shows off some hang time against the Crusaders © Getty Images
With Round 20 now done, so too is the regular season for Super Rugby. The final round of the season had five of the seven games with finals implications, from which the top six and first week playoff fixtures have now been confirmed.
The Round 20 TotW has been selected, too, and as always, you can have your say on my picks in the comments below, or using the #ScrumFive and #TotW hashtags on Twitter.
Next week, we'll unveil our Team of the Season, based on TotW selections and Notable Mentions over the course of the year. Who will make the cut?
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders) Seriously, Ben, this is getting ridiculous. Absolutely tore the Melbourne Rebels apart in the first half, and remained pretty dangerous even when the Rebels fought back in the second half. He's a better player even since playing the three Tests against France in June. Could be a real handful in the Rugby Championship.
14. Jason Woodward (Rebels) With the Rebels putting the broom through the place for 2014 already, fans should take heart that the immediate future of the club lays with players the ilk of Jason Woodward. One of a host of Rebels backs to impress in the second-half comeback, Woodward ran, beat defenders, and offloaded superbly.
13. Tom English (Rebels) English was another of those Rebels backs to impress, notching similar runs, metres made, line breaks, and defenders beaten numbers as did Woodward. And he scored two tries to boot. Perhaps more impressively, the former sevens player made a really good fist of defending the notoriously difficult 13 channel, in his first Super Rugby match off the wing.
12. Jean de Villiers (Stormers) Back at his native inside centre, and didn't he have a game to finish the season. Found himself in space regularly, showed that his distribution game is still pretty good, despite having spent so much time at outside centre, and scored yet another hard, straight-running try.
11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes) Bustling. Quick. And hard to stop, as former All Blacks lock Tom Donnelly will now attest. A powerful game from the big winger, with line breaks, beaten defenders and offloads creating many an opportunity. Scored the try to put the 'Canes back to within a point of the Crusaders, to go with a game-high four turnovers. ESPNscrum's stats have him making just the one tackle, but it was an important one: it was Savea that bullocked Owen Franks touch-in-goal, taking a Prop Scores a Try candidate out in the process.
10. Gary van Aswegen (Stormers) A guy I've not seen a lot of, but one I'll be keeping an eye on from here on in. Fly-half has been something of a revolving door for the Stormers this season, but van Aswegen might be a keeper. Has a great pass, really good vision, and did a very good job of sparking things by engaging defenders in the line before passing wider to de Villiers. Suddenly, the Stormers look like they can create tries.
9. Alby Mathewson (Force) It wasn't single-handed - he had several mates - but Mathewson was a key figure in the Western Force ending the Brumbies unbeaten run in the west. Similarly to Will Genia, it was Mathewson who put the Force on the front foot all night, and he often provided most of the playmaking as well. Whatever the Force invested in the former All Black, it's been returned in spades. A great season from a quality player.
8. Ben McCalman (Force) His elevation to the Wallabies for the Third Test against the Lions was widely critiqued, but anyone who's watched him for the Force this year will know that it wasn't unwarranted, so good has his form been. Saturday night was no different, where his high work rate saw entries in most columns on the stats sheet. Outpointed his Wallabies back-row counterparts, Ben Mowen and Peter Kimlin.
7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks) It was hard to separate the Sharks' best players in their 58-13 rout of the Southern Kings, but Coetzee would be right up there. Scored the try to level the scores, which sounds impressive, but it was actually in the fifth minute. And from there it was only one-way traffic. Made good ground all night with the ball, and was his usual presence at the breakdown. It will be interesting to see how much we see of him during the Rugby Championship.
6. Matt Hodgson (Force) Made a game-high 20 tackles at 100 percent effectiveness, in a truly amazing captain's display in defence. The Brumbies have attacked on the fringes throughout this season, and Hodgson obviously took it upon himself to plug those holes. Well played, skipper. One of the most inspirational follow-me captains in Super Rugby, never mind just the Australian conference.
5. Rob Simmons (Reds) Moved to the tighthead side of the scrum for this game, and had a bottler in James Horwill's absence. Worked hard at pick-and-drive, made a good number of tackles, and was the dominant lineout presence. In fact, it was almost like he was the only guy in the air at lineout time, winning more ball himself on the Reds' throw - and one on the 'Tahs throw - than New South Wales did all night.
4. Hugh Pyle (Rebels) If James O'Connor provided the second-half spark for the Rebels, then Hugh Pyle provided the direction, but did it all game. It's actually a shame the Rebels season is done now; Pyle needs to start showing this sort of game consistently at this level. The Rugby Championship might be a bit soon, but he'd have to be in the frame for the end-of-year tour.
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) Prop nearly scores try! I was willing the TMO in Christchurch to please, think of the children, and just award the try in the corner to Franks, but such was the shove that Julian Savea put on him, he never really got a chance to get the ball down. Strong game regardless, particularly around the breakdown, where he pulled off two turnovers. Great scrum battle with his Hurricanes brother Ben, too.
2. Saia Fainga'a (Reds) Fainga'a has certainly come back from national duty with a renewed vigour at Super Rugby level, and his display against the Waratahs was his best in I don't know how long. Made 20 tackles, averages more than two metres with every run, and was front-and-centre as the Reds' set piece ticked along at 100 percent for the night.
1. Tony Woodcock (Highlanders) Now here's a happy story. At #TotW, props scoring tries very quickly find themselves in contention for these lofty honours; that much is well-known. Woodcock was pencilled in early in the piece on Friday night, but I inadvertently missed his try. Watched the rest of the game, confirmed to myself that he'll be close to making the cut, and it was only later when looking at other highlights did I realise he was indeed this week's Prop Scores Try.
Notable mentions: Nick Cummins (Force winger), Cooper Vuna (Rebels winger), Quade Cooper (Reds flyhalf), Dan Carter (Crusaders flyhalf), Gareth Delve (Rebels No.8), Brad Shields (Hurricanes blindside), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers lock), Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs tighthead).
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
England manager Roy Hodgson said his team had been handed a tough task after the World Cup draw pitted them against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D - but stressed that he is staying positive
George Groves is unlikely to secure a rematch with Carl Froch after the 'Cobra' admitted on Ringside he is unwilling to grant his fellow Brit another shot at his super-middleweight world titles
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has hinted Mathew Tait could be sent out on loan in order to gain match practice as he makes his comeback from injury
The Dragons put themselves on course for the Amlin Challenge Cup knock-out stages as they saw off Bordeaux-Begles in Newport
Arsene Wenger has called for the loan system to be overhauled, believing players who make short-term switches to rival Premier League clubs should be allowed to play against their parent club