Super Rugby team of the week: Can anyone stop Hurricanes back-rower Ardie Savea?

2019-02-18 22:08:50

OPINION: Each Tuesday during Super Rugby Stuff will pick a New Zealand team of the week based on the previous weekend's games. In round one there were plenty of good performances but two players stood out - a Crusaders midfielder and a certain Hurricanes back-rower.

15. Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs): Stevenson left the field after 56 minutes and the momentum swung to the Highlanders. Coincidence? No way. His long kicking game and ability to help out No 10 Orbyn Leger had been instrumental to that point.

14. Manasa Mataele (Crusaders): No Seta Tamanivalu, no problem. Mataele took his opportunities well, particularly his second try when he still had a bit of work to do. The Fijian wing is a hard man to stop in contact.

13. Braydon Ennor (Crusaders): How did the Crusaders end up with the two best young centres in the country? Has clearly added some weight over the preseason but without losing any speed. Burnt Ma'a Nonu on the outside in a brilliant display.

12. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs): Is the No 12 jersey the answer to Lienert-Brown's goal of becoming a starting All Black? Even Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney thought he was the best player on Friday.

11. Tevita Li (Highlanders): Made more metres than anyone in the Highlanders' first-up win but can he hold off Waisake Naholo when the All Black returns? Or do the Highlanders play them both?

10. Josh Ioane (Highlanders): Yes, Orbyn Leger was good but Ioane's goalkicking was a key factor in the result. Made an early mistake or two but got better as the game wore on, too.

9. Bryn Hall (Crusaders): Had a hand in the two Crusaders tries that weren't penalty tries. Critics question the quality of his pass but on form is the third best No 9 in the country.

8. Akira Ioane (Blues): Brushed off Crusaders No 7 Matt Todd not once but twice, which just doesn't happen, as well as scoring a superb try. Tackle count needs to get a bit higher though.

7. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes): Brought back memories of Collins/So'oialo/Masoe with his sheer ferocity. Waratahs lock Jed Holloway must have felt like he ran into a wall in the first half. Big early statement from Savea.

6. Tom Robinson (Blues): Rangy loose forward was into everything and his offload to Harry Plummer in the second half showed he is more than just a workhorse. Good pickup for the Blues.

5. Scott Barrett (Crusaders): Had a great 2018 and has picked up where he left off. There is a consistently physical edge to Barrett's work these days and breakdown skills are exemplary for a big man.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues): New captain had one of his better Super Rugby games in the tight and the loose. His work in the buildup to Ofa Tuungafasi's try - big scrum shove and then a dominant carry - was All Blacks quality.

3. Owen Franks (Crusaders): Was the cornerstone of the Crusaders' early scrum dominance and was typically rugged in his defence. They don't make them like Franks any more.

2. Nathan Harris (Chiefs): Often maligned Chiefs hooker was responsible for two of the better pieces of skill in round one, including a delightful pass to set Etene Nanai-Seturo.

1. Joe Moody (Crusaders): Played like a just-released caged animal after an injury-interrupted 2018. Good luck telling this bloke he needs a few weeks off on All Blacks rest.

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