All Blacks and Wallabies paint our Rugby Championship Team of the Week black and gold, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Sunday’s doubleheader on the Gold Coast delivered dominance and high drama as New Zealand blacked out Argentina 39-0 before Australia edged the world champion Springboks 28-26 thanks to returning hero Quade Cooper’s clutch match-winning penalty goal.
Eight All Blacks and five Wallabies stormed into our side, which is rounded off by a pair of Springboks.
15: Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)
Safe as houses under the high ball, lethal on attack as he spun out of tackles, linked up with support runners and twice nearly scored chasing attacking kicks from brother Beauden. Added nine points to the tally as he kicked four out of four to cap a complete performance.
14: Sevu Reece (New Zealand)
Andrew Kellaway continued his good form and try-scoring ways but Reece’s work rate was vastly superior. An excellent example for young wings as he constantly injected himself into the game at pace. Strong, durable and direct, he scored a try and was held up over the line a few other times. Eleven carries in all for 57 metres.
13: Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
Developing into a real midfielder as he punched it up strongly in route one while also still finding space and utilising his scintillating speed on the outside. As a result, he racked up a round-high 127 metres, scored the opening try and had a hand in Luke Jacobson’s first five-pointer, all as a late replacement for Anton Lienert-Brown.
12: Samu Kerevi (Australia)
Took centre stage in a big way, giving the Springboks a dangerous dose of power and pace. Ruthlessly ran for 53 metres from an unrivalled 18 carries that saw him beat six defenders. Exploited Siya Kolisi’s yellow card with a dynamic step to break the line and long pass that allowed Kellaway to cash in and nearly sparked a second with an excellent offload at the death.
11: Marika Koroibete (Australia)
The toughest decision of the weekend as George Bridge was brilliant. Koroibete won out in the end as he punched through the Springboks’ vaunted defence much like Kerevi, exploding past a joint round-high six defenders. The best defender in the Australian backline as well, making all five of his tackles.
10: Quade Cooper (Australia) – Player of the Week
A comeback for the ages after four years in the international rugby wilderness. Class and composure personified. Resuscitated the Wallabies on attack, piloting the fast-paced offence that troubled the Springboks and won the game with his golden boot, including slotting THAT last-gasp winning penalty kick to make it eight from eight off the tee and 23 individual points.
9: Nic White (Australia)
A match-winner in his own right after replacing Tate McDermott. Steered the ship expertly, including producing the first 50:22 in Test rugby, made a try-saving tackle on Sbu Nkosi in the 70th minute and won the decisive penalty as he pounced on the ball and held on for dear life.
8: Luke Jacobson (New Zealand)
Made his mark with a brace of tries, the first score of the weekend as he collected a fantastic offload from magic man Beauden Barrett and the other with a power surge from the back of a scrum. Made a match-high 14 carries for 64 metres, by far the most by any forward, and all 11 of his tackles.
7: Michael Hooper (Australia)
Streets ahead in terms of captaincy, where his vast experience shone through with constant and clear communication with referee Luke Pearce. Delivered a number of big plays; a dangerous break just before half-time, prominent again on attack in the last five minutes and two crucial turnovers, one at the breakdown in his 22 in the 54th minute and the other through the middle of a maul with his team down to 14 men in the 67th minute.
6: Akira Ioane (New Zealand)
Lachlan Swinton turned in a strong overall showing that included excellent lineout jumping and a team-high 10 tackles. However, he undid a lot of that good work with the yellow card he conceded with one of those hits, on Eben Etzebeth. Ioane was rampant with ball in hand, smashing through six defenders, and won a turnover.
5: Scott Barrett (New Zealand)
His mercurial brothers grabbed the headlines, but his impact was just as immense. Punished the Pumas with relentless physicality, which he combined with deft touches to help build continuity. Worked his tail off and made the hard yards in heavy traffic – 29 metres from a dozen carries.
4: Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
The veteran celebrated the occasion of captaining his country for the first time with a towering performance. At the heart of the All Blacks’ defensive masterclass with a match-high 13 hits – many of them dominant – and two textbook ruck penalties. Ten strong carries, a couple of good offloads and strong set-piece play.
3: Nepo Laulala (New Zealand)
Frans Malherbe had a solid outing, which including winning a scrum penalty in each half, the first of which saw the Springboks draw first blood. However, Angus Bell got his own back by leading a massive scrum effort that earned the hosts three points just before half-time. Laulala brought the hurt at scrum time and in general play. Set the tone with a smashing hit on Pablo Matera straight out of the shoot.
2: Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
Beastly off the bench. Flawless with his lineout throwing and scored two tries from driving mauls, where he showed his experience and patience to time his touchdowns to perfection. What a luxury it is to have such a world-class player as part of the “Bomb Squad.”
1: Steven Kitshoff (South Africa)
Held up his end of the scrum but more impressively, did yeoman work in open play. The mobile man-mountain’s 11 tackles were bested only by Lood de Jager and Franco Mostert, both of whom made 13 hits.