1. Benn Robinson (Tahs) – Has gotten the better of his opposite numbers two weeks in a row and shown that he is the number one, no. 1 in the country. More often than not he was scrumming against two opponents, as George Smith would slide up along side the under pressure Brumbies tight-head and actually be in the front row. The ref’s didn’t pick it up but they missed a fair bit, still didn’t stop the Tahs from taking a tight head.
2. Tatafu Polota Nau (Tahs) – A year ago Taffy couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his line-out throws but now looks really comfortable. Had to put in a bit of overtime when he re-appeared after Frier went off with injury. Got the better of Stephen Moore and was still full of running at the end.
3. Laurie Weeks (Reds) – Came up against more than one Springbok front-rower on Saturday night and didn’t wilt under the pressure. He didn’t dominate but then again, wasn’t pushed around either.
4. Will Caldwell (Tahs) – Like Benn Robinson, has dominated his local rivals over successive weeks. The best line-out forward in Australia, it’s sure not his fault the Tahs lost on Friday. I think Nathan Sharpe should be feeling a little nervous.
5. Hugh McMeniman (Reds) – The fact Madness has played the last two weeks is testament to his strength of mind and his character. Single-handedly fixed the Reds lineout this week and created havoc with his defence. Has played three games in a row without injury which for him is an achievement in itself.
6. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) – Got bashed around off the ball a heap by the Sharks so maybe they realised his importance to overall performance of the Reds. Has always been a decent ball runner but is now becoming a far more solid defender. Has the number six spot nailed down which none of the other Australian blind-sides do.
7. George Smith (Brumbies) – His talent abounds…..
8. Tamaiti Horua (Force) – Has been the best for the Force for the last two games. Started at number 6 against the ‘Saders but showed his versatility finishing the game at no. 8. A great ball runner and a legitimate lineout forward. His support play in the second half during the Forces’ comeback was outstanding.
9. Josh Valantine (Force) – Others may play better in spurts, but Valentine is playing the most consistently, and, generally behind a Force pack that is going backwards at a rate of knots. An honourable mention goes to Will Genia’s 50 min effort against the Sharks
10. Matt Giteau (Force) – His talent abounds also….
11. Peter Hynes (Reds) – Was rated by Sharks coach John Plumtree at the after match interviews as the best winger in the competition, that’s a good enough endorsement for me.
12. Berrick Barnes (Reds) – After a few slow weeks at the start of the season, Barnes is now really playing some great rugby. Tackles well, kicks goals, beats defenders, gains ground with kicks, good passing game and alternates between no.10 and inside centre seamlessly – the kind of skills that will probably consign him to being a utility bench player for the Wallabies when he otherwise would probably have been run on.
13. Digby Ioane (Reds) – A winger who looks far better playing outside centre. His best games this season have come when he has shifted to no.13, must be super-fit as his work rate is incredible. The hardest man to tackle in the Super 14 maybe?
14. Lachlan Turner (Tahs) – Not sure what the Tahs can do to get him more ball, but it should be their number one priority (a start might be to get rid of Portley?) Lachie is making the most of his very limited opportunities.
15. Mark Gerrard (Brumbies) – If Gerrado doesn’t get first crack at the Wallaby fullback gig this year then something is seriously wrong. Shows the kind of ability to control a game that is needed of a test match full back.