Team of the Week
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, SARugby.com hands out praise to the stars of the Rugby Championship's second round.
With the controversy in Auckland now put to bed and Australia finally winning under Ewen McKenzie, there is plenty of variation in this week's selections:
Team of the Week:
15 Israel Folau (Australia): The shining light in a dour Wallabies performance against the Pumas in Perth. Few chances in attack but still managed to get over the advantage line when the ball did come his way and was rewarded with a fine try for his efforts.
14 Ben Smith (New Zealand): Didn't have much to do on attack but hardly put a foot wrong in his core duties. Knew when to take on the defence and when to offload or kick and also put his body on the line with his defensive duties.
13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand): Another tireless display from the veteran midfielder, whose experience proved invaluable, particularly when Dan Carter was forced to leave the field. Smith's option-taking is one of his strengths and this aspect of his game was superb in the win over the Springboks.
12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa): Made a couple of line breaks and led his troops superbly despite playing most of the match with 14 men. Also impressed on defence with ten tackles made.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand): Like Folau, he didn't see much of the ball but when he did he managed to get over the gain line quite easily. Beat three defenders, in the process, and impressed with his composure under the high ball.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): Cometh the hour cometh the man. With Dan Carter forced off the field through injury the Springboks must have fancied their chances of securing victory in Auckland. But Carter was hardly missed as Barrett impressed with a fine allround effort, gaining 51 metres on attack and making seven tackles.
9 Nic White (Australia): Came into Australia's side under huge pressure as Will Genia's replacement but was arguably their best player against Argentina. Despite receiving plenty of ball on the back-foot, in atrocious conditions, White remained calm and delivered a solid display which will make it difficult for Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie to leave him out of his starting XV.
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand) - No Richie? No problem. Kieran Read seems to relish the All Blacks captaincy and backed up his showing against Argentina last weekend with another fine performance in Auckland. A double try scorer, with one either side of half-time, Read certainly had the easier night of the two captains but did also spend 10 minutes in the bin after New Zealand repeatedly infringed in their own 22. That aside, he was excellent.
7 Sam Cane (New Zealand) - Bloodied and filling McCaw's boots, Cane had an industrious afternoon when he wasn't off the field due to the crimson flowing down his face. Also bagged a try.
6 Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe (Argentina) - The great man continues to roll out big performances for Argentina when it matters, but no one will be stung more greatly than Fernández Lobbe after coming within a point of that first win in The Rugby Championship. No Puma beat more defenders.
5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) - Difficult to not pick two number fours in the second row after their performances over the weekend. Etzebeth first up weighed in with an impressive 13 tackles and seven lineout takes in Auckland.
4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand) - Retallick enjoyed his best game in an All Blacks jersey thus far in his young career. Dove over for New Zealand's second try and carried 12 times for 33 metres, whilst making ten tackles. Good work.
3 Juan Figallo (Argentina) - A second nomination in a week for the man from Montpellier. Six tackles, six carries and three offloads, more than any other Puma, all illustrate what a fine all-round player Figallo is.
2 Agustin Creevy (Argentina) - Had he not only played 32 minutes against New Zealand after being sin-binned and then sent off, Bismarck would have waltzed into this spot. But, we couldn't include him, so Creevy gets the nod for his good work at the breakdown for Argentina, forcing two turnovers.
1 Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa) - Loosehead props did little to put their hands up over the weekend, although Tony Woodcock was a contender until his penalty count of three ruled him out. Instead the accolade goes to Mtawarira for the second week running, with five tackles and some good link play.