With the dust having settled on Round Two of the Rugby Championship, we have gone through the action to pick the best players from the weekend.
Argentina and New Zealand have earned six nominations apiece, following their superb victories over Australia and South Africa respectively, but the Springboks are also well-represented after their epic battle with the All Blacks in Johannesburg.
Rugby Championship Team of the Week
15 Willie le Roux (South Africa): A really tight call sees the flying full-back take the spot from his opponent Jordie Barrett (New Zealand). Barrett was brilliant under the high ball, while Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia was crucial in his side’s aerial dominance, but Le Roux’s 14 completed passes and 52 meters of pacy running sees him take the shirt.
14 Lukhanyo Am (South Africa): 70 minutes on the wing saw a blistering display from arguably the most complete back in world rugby and, although All Black Will Jordan also impressed, Am comfortably takes the spot. Due to the Springboks’ game plan, he doesn’t always get a chance to show his quality with ball in hand, but that was on display in Johannesburg. He scored one brilliant try and in total ran for a staggering 137 meters
13 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): A player of the match performance in a memorable win saw Ioane run 104 meters and make seven vital tackles, taking the spot off the Wallabies’ Len Ikitauwho impressed despite his teams thrashing. Matias Moronic was huge in defense and kick chase for Argentina, but this could be a career-defining display for Ioane. Some still believe that center is not his position but this went some way to answering those critics.
12 David Havilic (New Zealand): Probably his best Test performance, Havili’s direct running gave his backs focus and firepower. A shout out to Argentina’s Jeronimo de la Fuente, who seems to have achieved cult status on social media with his ‘hamstring dummy’ as he crossed for Los Pumas, whilst Damian Willemse’s out in the 12 shirt has offered the South African management food for thought as his passing impressed all who saw it.
11 Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina): The graceful kicker came good with 13 effortless points off the tee and added a brilliant chase try at the end to seal off a memorable personal performance as he takes a spot in Team of the Week for the third consecutive time. Despite playing on the right, we simply had to include him in the side, so Boffelli switches to the left wing. He therefore sees off the challenge of Kiwi Caleb Clarke and also Argentina team-mate Juan Imhoff.
10 Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand): Mo’unga appears to be the better bet to give the All Blacks much needed structure and meters off the boot, and his recall was pivotal in the win over the Springboks. in San Juan, Santiago Carreras also executed his kick strategy with accuracy and aplomb and looks now to be a fixture in the Argentinian side.
9 Gonzalo Bertranou (Argentina): The Dragons star has never cemented his place as first choice scrum-half after making his debut seven years ago, but his assured display, power around the fringes and control of kick were exemplary in setting Los Pumas’ the platform for their Australian drubbing. All Black Aaron Smith was equally as effective and looked to have returned to a much more rounded attacking game, rediscovering his snipe and kicking skills. A shoutout too for nicole white, one of the few Wallabies to emerge in credit after he effectively played the role of both nine and 10 in San Juan.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): Always performs well – even when the All Blacks are not – and produced another excellent display in the victory over the Springboks. Was a constant menace with ball in hand, making 51 meters from 13 carries – which included one superb run down the left – and also did plenty of work defensively. He was a threat at the breakdown, slowing South Africa’s ball down effectively, and made his tackles as the All Blacks put themselves in Rugby Championship title contention.
7 Juan Martin Gonzalez (Argentina): Fairly harsh on Sam Cane, who answered his critics in fine style with a captain’s performance in Johannesburg, but the Pumas back-row was simply exceptional in San Juan. Gonzalez showed his pace and nous to take advantage of an Australian mistake to score an opportunistic try, which was reward for a superb all-round effort. He made a joint team high 12 tackles, with most of those shots often dominant, and he was also excellent at the contact area. Just 21, the flanker is very much a player to watch.
6 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): Was absolutely everywhere, despite the Boks’ defeat, as he saw off the threat of Argentina’s Marcos Kremer and his opposite number on Saturday, New Zealand’s Shannon Frizell. The highlight was undoubtedly his intercept which almost led to an incredible breakaway try, but the flanker’s game is much more about his work at close quarters. Du Toit was again a ubiquitous presence in the tight and was unfortunate to be on the losing team.
5 Tomas Lavanini (Argentina): Is a good player when he’s not getting yellow carded and was at his best in the victory over Australia on Saturday. Lavanini is always useful in the lineout, both winning and stealing, but also showed plenty of power in the carry. He was equally busy in defence, making 11 tackles, and as a result takes the slot from New Zealand’s Scott Barrettwho shone for Ian Foster’s men at Ellis Park.
4 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): Like most All Blacks, the veteran second-row came into Saturday’s clash against the Springboks under pressure but he showed that he still has plenty to offer with a masterful display at the coalface of his team’s forward effort. Whitelock was superb in the lineouts as he secured the bulk of his team’s possession at the set-piece and also poached some of his opponents’ balls. He also did well on defense and finished with seven tackles made.
3 Fletcher Newell (New Zealand): The All Blacks’ starting tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax is unlucky to miss out after a solid 55-minute stint but his replacement, 22-year-old Newell, gets the nod after making a memorable Test debut in hostile surroundings in Johannesburg. Newell hit the ground running and made a big impact with his scrummaging but also delivered a lively performance in loose, changing the point of contact with some neat passes on the gain line.
2 Julian Montoya (Argentina): The All Blacks’ Samisoni Taukei’aho and Malcolm Marx of the Springboks both had fine performances in their encounter in Johannesburg, but we couldn’t ignore Montoya’s claims after he came to the fore with a fine effort in Los Pumas’ win over the Wallabies in San Juan. Montoya led from the front as Argentina’s skipper but also made his mark with a solid defensive shift in which he made 12 tackles.
1 Thomas Gallo (Argentina): Los Pumas’ forwards deserve plenty of credit for their win over the Wallabies as they set up a great platform for their backs and Gallo was at the forefront of that effort with an excellent all-round display. The 23-year-old did well on attack as he gained 21 meters from eight carries which included one defender beaten and a brace of tries. Also made his mark on defense with 11 tackles made and beats out South Africa’s Steven Kitshoff.
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