Team of the Week
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we thought it was only right to hand out praise to the stars of Super Rugby, Round 15.
Without further ado, here comes our offering - be sure to send in your own 15-1 team selections.
Super Rugby, Team of Round 15
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders) - We begin this week arguably at the most contested jersey. Jason Woodward, Charles Piutau and Robbie Robinson were mightily impressive for the Rebels, Blues and Chiefs respectively, but with 147 metres Smith gets the nod. The All Black is, in our eyes, the form full-back in New Zealand even with the Highlanders struggling. Top performer.
14 Tom English (Rebels) - First off a couple of pats on the back for Tom Marshall and Lelia Masaga, the latter doing well coming off the bench. However, two tries couldn't be ignored as English's double saw off the 'Tahs. The Rebels' form - without Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor - deserves a round of applause, with Woodward and English part of a solid team effort.
13 Johan Sadie (Cheetahs) - Two tries for this outside centre on Saturday as he continues to bed in at the Bloemfontein outfit. He made over 50 metres with ball in hand - also creating one for Willie le Roux on 61 minutes - and seems to be flourishing in a side that likes to run the ball. A mention must go to Blues hard man Rene Ranger for another strong shift.
12 Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) - Damian de Allende again proved he has bags of potential as a ball-carrying centre at Newlands but for his all round game management we had to go for Lealiifano. The likely starter against the British and Irish Lions ticks all the boxes in terms of defence and attack, scoring 15 as he compliments Tevita Kuridrani well.
11 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) - While the Sharks vs Bulls game was one that lacked even a smidge of imagination with ball in hand, over at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium there was a winger trying all sorts. Le Roux, called by the Springboks last week, gave a beautiful no-look pass that created a try and again proved to be a key player. Got a try of his own on the hour.
10 Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) - Definitely won his personal battle with Dan Carter in Hamilton as he charged down the All Black starter for a try before then fending him off en route to a late penalty shot that took him to 18 points. A mention for Brumbies ten Matt Toomua while Heyneke Meyer will have noticed Demetri Catrakilis kicking well for the Kings on Saturday.
9 Nic White (Brumbies) - In the race for Australia's back-up scrum-half spot, White now has the upper hand over Nick Phipps. Scored a smart try, sliding over in the wet from eight metres out, while what was also impressive was his toughness in dusting off that hit from Rene Ranger. White's partnership with Toomua is one of the most underrated in the comp.
8 Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) - Has thrived since he was handed the captaincy and was immense in his side's victory over the Waratahs at the weekend. His experience proved invaluable as the Rebels managed to keep the Sydneysiders at bay during the closing stages of the match. Stormers youngster Nizaam Carr also impressed against the Reds, especially on defence with an incredible 29 tackles made.
7 Chris Alcock (Western Force) - Was one of the heroes of his side's thrilling win over the Highlanders in Perth. Carried well, did his bit on defence and was immense at the breakdown. Beats out Rebels counterpart Scott Fuglistaller who made 22 hits against the Waratahs.
6 Dave Dennis (Waratahs) - Was outstanding in the narrow defeat to the Rebels. Dennis led on attack for the Waratahs, with 139 metres gained, won two turnovers and five line-outs and never took a backward step on defence. Lappies Labuschagne also had a strong game for the Cheetahs against the Kings.
5 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) - Impressed in his first outing at number five and is close to reaching the levels which won him higher honours in 2012. Was also tasked with calling the line-outs for the first time and succeeded at his job with aplomb. Won a handful of line-outs including a vital steal on a Reds throw and stood his ground in defence with 16 tackles.
4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) - Put in another busy shift in the Chiefs' epic win over the Crusaders. Went head-to-head against his All Blacks team-mates, Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano, and came out with his reputation intact. A willing ball-carrier and was also prepared to do the dirty work at the coalface of the exchanges up front.
3 Ben Alexander (Brumbies) - Was the cornerstone of the Brumbies' scrums in atrocious weather conditions against the Blues in Auckland. Also did admirably in his other core duties and gets in ahead of recalled Stormers prop Brok Harris who scrummed well against the Reds and also caught the eye with 20 tackles on defence.
2 Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) - Does this guy ever play a bad game for the men from Bloemfontein? Strauss was, once again, at the forefront of his side's attacking forays in their win over the Kings and holds off the challenge from Brumbies counterpart Stephen Moore, who had a storming game in Auckland.
1 Nic Henderson (Rebels) - Another player who shone at his basics and got around the park in defence, making 10 tackles against the Waratahs. Force stalwart Pek Cowan also stood out against the Highlanders.