Super Rugby team of the week: Sonny Bill Williams needs a show of faith
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/113386381/-

2019-06-11 20:09:26

OPINION: Ryan Crotty and Ngani Laumape must be awaiting the announcement of the Rugby World Cup squad with a sense of dread.

No matter what they do in Super Rugby – they both excelled at the weekend – there is a rather large shadow hanging over both of them.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has strongly signalled that Sonny Bill Williams will be hard to leave out if he proves his fitness, a process that may well begin when the Blues play the Hurricanes on Saturday.

If that's the case, either Crotty or Laumape – or perhaps both – won't go to Japan.

That would be a cruel blow to two players who have been exceptional for their Super Rugby sides for two years.

Hansen will argue that the 2015 Rugby World Cup showed the wisdom of taking experienced players to the big show even though they didn't have big Super Rugby campaigns.

It's a fair argument, although it's debatable whether the Kiwi rugby public see Williams in the same category as a Dan Carter and thus deserving of the same leeway.

As Hansen says, Williams would be a tough man to leave out, but his injury-interrupted Super Rugby campaign means that Hansen is investing in a 4-1 thoroughbred, not the 2-1 bet Carter was as the greatest No 10 to ever play the game.

For this week, however, the irrepressible Laumape makes Stuff's team of the week.

15. David Havili (Crusaders): Seems to glide across the surface and his late change of direction at the line always makes sure he attracts multiple defenders.

14. Sevu Reece (Crusaders): A ball of energy and enthusiasm but probably needs to be subjected to a barrage of high balls before he can pass the All Blacks test.

13. Peter Umaga-Jensen (Hurricanes): Had to step up and did so admirably. Inclusion kept Jordie Barrett at No 15 and helped the balance of the backline.

12. Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes): Scored one superb try with his pace and footwork and continues to impress with his option taking and kicking game.

11. Braydon Ennor (Crusaders): One brilliant pick-up off his boot laces showed his skill levels as he further builds a case for All Blacks inclusion.

10. Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders): The master of the kick pass was given plenty of space by the Rebels' defence and he took most of it.

9. Augustine Pulu (Blues): Scored two tries and was unluckily denied another in a game that highlighted his strengths.

8. Kieran Read (Crusaders): Bombed one try he would have walked in four years ago but tackled everything that moved.

7. Matt Todd (Crusaders): Crusaders back row always looks better when Todd plays and he is another reason they are strong favourites for the three-peat.

6. Reed Prinsep: Played a key part of a worthy Hurricanes defensive effort that set up the game for Dane Coles and Ardie Savea when they came on.

5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders): Building, building, building. The big lock is finding some very strong form at the right time. His physical shift of the year.

4. Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders): Took it to the big Bulls pack with lots of aggression and determination. Threw one needless offload but positives far outweighed that negative.

3. Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders): Another strong scrummgaing effort and the tide at the set-piece turned when he was replaced after 63 minutes.

2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes): Game-changing injection at half-time and showed his pace with two well-taken tries.

1. Joe Moody (Crusaders): There is currently daylight behind Moody and the next-best loosehead in the country, and he's not even quite at his best yet.

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