We have clear division after two rounds of the 2017 Rugby Championship. Both New Zealand and South Africa have a pair of wins while both Australia and Argentina have yet to taste victory. The Pumas have been disappointing in all honesty, while the Wallabies stepped up their game after a miserable first Bledisloe Cup Test.
Let’s see if the team of the week reflects the Kiwi and Springbok dominance:
1. Tendai Mtawarira – South Africa
There had been questions floating in the South African media as to whether the Beast was past it or not. On this display, you would have to say no. He is always a monster in the scrum, but against Argentina, he added that powerful ball carrying element that was always his trademark.
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau – Australia
Polota-Nau didn’t even start the game. First string hooker Stephen Moore paid the price for the New Zealand scrum domination early and the backup #2 came on, immediately changing the flow to the set piece.
3, Joe Moody – New Zealand
Naming another tight head here, but Moody and the Beast were by far the pick of the front rowers in this round of matches. Moody was having to do extra work with Owen Franks withdrawing late, but he carried Nepo Laulala to a dominant scrum performance for the first 40 minutes.
4. Eben Etzebeth – South Africa
The South African fans won’t be ready to move on from Warren Whiteley just yet, but Etzebeth had an imperious game against the Pumas. He does everything an international lock is supposed to as he steals line-outs and is a force as a ball carrier and as a defender on the fringes.
5. Rory Arnold – Australia
Arnold wasn’t even supposed to play in this match. Adam Coleman was the starter at lock before aggravating a shoulder in training. Arnold dealt with this news – and his reinstatement into the team – in a way every coach would dream of. He played like a man possessed, running and tackling in abundance.
6. Siya Kolisi – South Africa
There might not be a harder working player in all of world rugby. Kolisi was at it again in Argentina making tackles, slowing down ball, and scoring a couple of tries for the Springboks. World class performer who leaves it all on the field.
7. Michael Hooper – Australia
You could tell from the start of this that Hooper had taken last week’s defeat very much to heart. Hooper is always everywhere, but it seemed like on Saturday that was even more the case. His ability to stay strong to score the Wallabies second try was exceptional as was his link up play with half-backs Will Genia and Bernard Foley for their third.
8. Kieran Read – New Zealand
There is a reason that Read is the All Blacks captain. In a team full of leaders he once again made the key line break to set up his side’s scintillating winning try. If there is breath left in his body Read will never admit to being beaten and the angle he took to scythe through the Wallabies defence was simply sensational.
9. Will Genia – Australia
It is hard not to give the nod to Aaron Smith here as the All Blacks scrum half was so vital to their win against the Wallabies. Genia though was irresistible in a game where Australia needed a huge effort from their 9/10 combination.
10. Beauden Barrett – New Zealand
There are some that still believe this coveted spot should belong to Aaron Cruden instead of Barrett and that the former Chiefs’ No. 10 was essentially pushed to France because of Barrett’s arrival. While this performance won’t stop those haters, it might slow them down just a touch. Barrett was a perfect five-of-five with his conversion kicking and scored a couple of tries – including the late game-winner – to prevent a mighty upset.
11. Rieko Ioane – New Zealand
There were eight wingers on display on Saturday across the two matches and none of them feel more dangerous than Ioane. The game is simply played at a different speed when he touches the ball and he is a constant threat that must be considered defensively at all times.
12. Kurtley Beale – Australia
There are few tougher tasks in world rugby than lining up across from Sonny Bill Williams at every set piece. Beale though smacked Williams at the contact point twice in the second half and, on one of those occasions, he stopped a certain try. The added defensive presence – along with his usual deftness in attack – make him a standout Wallaby in Dunedin.
13. Jesse Kriel – South Africa
He is as solid as you like in the centre and his combination with Jan Serfontein is one that the Springboks can rely on. As teams pay more attention to his partner at #12, Kriel is growing in confidence and will cause the All Blacks problems when they meet.
14. Ramiro Moyano – Argentina
None of the other wingers really stood out on Saturday. Moyano scored his try after a terrific kickoff chase, showing the hunger and desire that seems to be lacking from the Argentine side at this moment in time. For that alone – and because we need a Puma in here somewhere – he makes the team.
15. Israel Folau – Australia
Folau would get the nod here for his try inside 20 seconds regardless of his performance over the next 79:40 of game time. The Wallabies absolutely could not afford to go behind in this game early given their non-existent confidence. Thanks to a Folau gamble – and a bad Damian McKenzie pass – they didn’t.
Who else should have been considered for Team of the Week honours? Let us know below!
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