OPINION: It's alarming to think how close New Zealand came to losing Ardie Savea.
Had Luke Whitelock and Sam Cane not suffered injuries last year Savea would currently be learning French in preparation for a move to Pau.
First, Whitelock was a late withdrawal from the All Blacks' side against Argentina, giving Savea the platform to show his ability at No 8, and then Cane copped that frightening neck injury in South Africa, opening the door for Savea at No 7.
Savea has been inspirational for the Hurricanes since round one this year and he has been the best player in the country over the first 11 rounds of Super Rugby.
He again highlights Super Rugby's team of the week.
15. Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes): Steady on with the praise, the Chiefs were playing touch for the first 20 minutes. Nonetheless the speed at which he hit the line for the first try was highly encouraging.
14. Sevu Reece (Crusaders): Are the All Blacks really going to pick someone who just last year injured his partner in a drunken rage? This is New Zealand Rugby's next big question because he was special against the Lions.
13. Braydon Ennor (Crusaders): In the concussion era a squad size of 31 is simply too small for a Rugby World Cup. However, the rules are rules and Ennor's ability to play midfield and right wing must be highly tempting.
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs): Tried to hard in a well-beaten Chiefs side as New Zealand's talent drain continues to hit hard in the Tron. Massive injury list isn't helping either.
11. George Bridge (Crusaders): Welcome back, George. One of Stuff's favourite players due his all-round excellence and sheer energy. Lively.
10. Josh Ioane (Highlanders): Not many would have paid much attention to the Highlanders' late kickoff in Tokyo on Friday, but they missed a clinic by New Zealand's third best No 10.
9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes): Neck and neck with Aaron Smith but gets the decision due to that cheeky disguised pass to Jordie Barrett in the buildup to the Savea try.
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders): Getting there, slowly. The old pace isn't back yet but Read is smart, tough and everything good about New Zealand loose forward play. Gets the nod ahead of Elliot Dixon.
7. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes): Playing like All Blacks are supposed to play (and many of them aren't yet). Dominating at Super Rugby level.
6. Luke Whitelock (Highlanders): Tackled with usual fervour and showed lovely hands to set up Tyrel Lomax's try. Some hard decisions coming at the Highlanders with Liam Squire not too far away.
5. Tom Franklin (Highlanders): Was grumpy at start of year after being told to rest up for two weeks after season in Japan, but that decision is now paying dividends.
4. Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders): Likely to stay at lock for the Highlanders, where he has found some great form. As with Ennor in the backs, his versatility is appealing for the ABs.
3. Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders): The Highlanders scrum probably made about 100 metres just by pushing the Sunwolves off the ball at every set-piece. Another big effort by the big man.
2. Liam Coltman (Highlanders): Pulled out the left-foot step after one midfield break, which shows his confidence levels. In career-best form.
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown (Highlanders): Has added almost six kilograms to his playing weight and now tips the scale at just under 118kg. Throwing that extra bulk around to good effect.