New Zealand Team of the Week


For the first time in eight weeks we had two New Zealand sides clash against each other in Super Rugby and the match failed to disappoint.

The Crusaders prevailed in a blistering encounter against the Hurricanes to solidify their position on top of the standings with 11 straight wins.

Meanwhile the Blues racked up 50 points against the Cheetahs, while the Highlanders left it late for the second straight week to beat the Bulls in Pretoria.

With all that in mind, and the British & Irish Lions tour just three weeks away, here is the latest New Zealand team of the week.

BACKS:

15. David Havili (Crusaders)

The Crusaders fullback is having a breakout season, making every post a winner in the absence of Israel Dagg. Threatened with ball in hand where he regularly evaded the first tackle in a game that produced limited try scoring opportunities. Former All Black Mils Muliaina mentioned Havili as a potential bolter for the Lions tour and its not hard to see why.

14. Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders)

Having made a smooth transition from centre to the wing at the Crusaders this year, Tamanivalu delivered a strong performance marking up against Julian Savea. Left the All Blacks wing gasping at air on a couple of occasions, and went ever so close to collecting a Ryan Crotty cross-field kick to score.

13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)

It was an ugly old game in woeful conditions in Pretoria. 10-10 and two red cards entering the final stages, up stepped Fekitoa with a brilliant solo effort running 40 metres to score the match winner. Saw the gap, pinned his ears back, fended off a defender before scooting round the fullback to score under the sticks. Those sorts of tries will keep him in the All Blacks picture ahead of the Lions next month.

12. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)

If there was any doubt on whether Crotty should wear the No. 12 jersey for the All Blacks against the Lions, the Crusaders midfielder put that to bed at the weekend. Heavily involved in all facets of the game, from key defensive work to turnovers at the breakdown, and showed he’s got a measured boot with a couple of probing chip kicks. Up against the rampaging Ngani Laumape too, it was some effort.

11. Rieko Ioane (Blues)

Another weekend, another double for the younger Ioane brother. Seems to have broken the shackles since his move back to the wing from centre, showing lovely awareness and pace particularly in his second try against the Cheetahs. Probably needs to show the All Blacks selectors he can put in performances like this against stronger opposition.

10. Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)

It wasn’t exactly a vintage weekend for the New Zealand playmakers, but Mo’unga gets the nod on the back of a decent effort behind a bruising Crusaders forward pack. Was bullied early on by the likes of Ngani Laumape, but grew into the game with some delicate touches on attack while his educated boot built scoreboard pressure on the Hurricanes.

9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)

The Crusaders could’ve scored more had it not been for some of the brilliant cover defence and breakdown work of the stand in Hurricanes skipper. Did well too as his forward pack went backwards to get the Canes out of jail. Will run Aaron Smith — who was man of the match for the Highlanders at the weekend — very close for the All Blacks No. 9 jersey.

FORWARDS:

1. Joe Moody (Crusaders)

Had an absolute field day at the scrum time as the Crusaders pack bullied the Hurricanes. Got the better of Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen on more than one occasion, with one scrum penalty contributing to an easy three points. Carried well too, and should be the All Blacks starting loosehead against the Lions.

2. Codie Taylor (Crusaders)

Was involved in one of the turning points of the match as he scurried back from a lineout to chase down Beauden Barrett (yes you read that correctly) who had the try line beckoning. The play was a testament to his energy around the park on both sides of the ball, while his lineout throws were very accurate.

3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)

Felt harsh to leave one member of the Crusaders front row out of the team, such was their dominance at the set piece. Does plenty of unseen work, and played his part in the Crusaders only try from a rolling lineout drive. Charlie Faumuina was excellent for the Blues with a couple of silky passes leading to tries against the Cheetahs.

4. Luke Romano (Crusaders)

Another industrious game from Romano, who continues to shoulder some of the workload that the Crusaders lose when they’re without Sam Whitelock. Had to go the distance after Scott Barrett went off early in the second half, and was still having a profound impact on proceedings in the 80th minute.

5. Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)

Tuipulotu was in need of a big game as the Lions series edges closer, and on his return from a back injury he reminded the All Blacks selectors what he’s capable of against the Cheetahs. Carried the ball with plenty of vigor to score while imposed himself in the tight on defence. Needs more games like this to justify his place in the All Blacks matchday 23.

6. Steven Luatua (Blues)

It’s going to be quite the sight seeing Luatua running around in the second tier of English club rugby. The Blues blindside flanker had another storming game, scoring a try and laying on the last pass for another as Jerome Kaino and Liam Squire recover from respective injuries. Should they fail to be fit for the first Test, Luatua has all the qualities to fill the void.

7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)

The most under-rated player in New Zealand rugby? Put on an absolute clinic for the Crusaders with a flurry of breakdown turnovers, crucial tackles and strong carries while keeping fellow All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea relatively quiet. Scored the only try and was deserved man of the match. Let’s hope concussion doesn’t keep him sidelined.

8. Akira Ioane (Blues)

Like his brother Rieko, Akira Ioane delivered another impressive performance for the Blues as he showcased his ball-carrying strength to make plenty of easy metres against the Cheetahs. Has plenty of pace off the mark for a big man too as he showed in his try. Will be a handful against the Lions for the Blues, and most likely the Maori All Blacks.