Each week we’ll be looking at the best of the best in Australian rugby and piecing together the top 15 players out of the Aussie Super Rugby sides from the round gone by.
A much shorter week for the Aussie sides in Round 8, with just two games for fans to dig into among another week of tumultuous times in the world of rugby down under.
After a tight opening 40, the Reds jumped out of the block in the second half of a high-scoring affair against the Kings.
They very nearly let the South Africans right back into it in the dying stages, eventually holding on to a 47-34 win.
The Rebels pulled out an upset over the Brumbies on Saturday thanks to a Reece Hodge penalty two minutes from time, getting his side over the line in a 19-17 thriller.
Just three teams to pick from this week. There were some standouts, but there were some positions that just need filling, regardless, here’s the Round 8 team of the week.
1. Scott Sio (Brumbies)
Not a great way to start the list in what was far from a stand out week for the loose heads. Scott Sio gets things moving with the ‘best of a bad bunch’ performance.
Sef Fa’agase had a fairly quiet game for the Reds, and Fereti Sa’aga actually scored minus points in fantasy footy this week thanks to a messy showing and a yellow card for the Rebels.
Sio was a steady if not unspectacular hand for the Brumbies in a tough performance for his side. A couple of tackle busts and a solid effort at scrum time were enough to get him the opening spot in the side this week.
2. James Hanson (Rebels)
Despite struggling against a much more fancied Brumbies pack early on, Hanson and the Rebels tight five really ground their way back into the contest in the second half and began to take the fight to them.
Hanson had a strong running game and portrayed a brick wall in defence to compliment his line out and scrum work.
3. Laurie Weeks (Rebels)
In the same vein of Hanson, Weeks piled on the pressure against a stumbling Brumbies pack as they desperately tried to hold on late in the game.
It wasn’t anything spectacular, but as he has been throughout a tough season, Weeks was a workhorse through the guts and really showed the grit and aggression that got his side over the line.
4. Rob Simmons (Reds)
As well as a barnstorming line break from the big fella, Simmons painted himself a threatening picture around the fringes of the ruck, able to sneak his nose through the line and land the offload on more than one occasion.
Solid in the line out and managed to make fewer mistakes than most of his teammates in a scrappy opening half.
5. Sam Carter (Brumbies)
Tall man Sam Carter (2.01 metres if you were wondering) didn’t blow the world away against the Rebels but he was a steady hand among a quiet weekend for the few No. 5’s in Aussie Super Rugby.
He was a machine in the line out, pulling in no fewer than nine throws and playing the running lock in damaging fashion off the set piece.
6. Lopeti Timani (Rebels)
Scott Fardy didn’t play terribly on the other side of the park, but it’s Timani who gets the nod this week for his penchant to take on the defensive wall close to the line and break the advantage line, especially when the Rebels were grinding inside the Brumbies 22 and racking up phases with the big men.
7. George Smith (Reds)
The veteran gift that keeps on giving. I would say George Smith turned back the clock, but at 36 years old, I don’t think the clock has ever been left behind as one of the most consistent players in world rugby.
Especially in the first half, Smith was an absolute menace for the Kings, putting on a counter-rucking masterclass on his way to six turnovers for the game in the ruck alone, not to mention a stolen lineout.
His defence was a highlight, but he also tore up the metres with ball in hand and bagged a five-pointer thanks to a very nice combination with Scott Higginbotham.
8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
Speaking of. The moustachioed No.8 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he put in a domineering display on Saturday.
He was able to really use his size and strength in a way that showed off a lot of the potential many believe has been lacking throughout his career. He ploughed through the centre of the field, piling on the run metres and keeping the Kings on the back foot defensively.
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9. Nic Stirzaker (Rebels)
I might be a bit biased in my assessment of halfbacks. I’m a real fan of a running scrum half who is smart when picking to take on the line from the back of the ruck and Nic Stirzaker did just that this week.
With the Wallaby No.9 spot well and truly up in the air at the moment, Stirzaker put his hand up with a cheeky display of running rugby, being outdone in the backline only by his winger Sefanaia Naivalu in terms of metres gained.
10. Wharenui Hawera (Brumbies)
The young kiwi was brought into the Brumbies at the start of the season under a bit of confusion, with the Australian public not really knowing who he was or where he’d popped up on Stephen Larkham’s radar.
Being pushed straight into the starting side, Hawera has impressed so far as the Brumbies look to keep their noses out front in the Australian Conference.
Much like Stirzaker, Hawera’s running game was a standout against the Rebels, selling a bevvy of dummies like he was selling his house and finding his way into the back field time and time again, hitting triple figures in running metres as well.
11. Eto Nabuli (Reds)
Now this one was a rough decision. Tom English and Marika Koroibete didn’t really do enough to make the side, and Nabuli made a host of handling errors in the first half, but it’s his brace of tries that sneak him ahead of a lacklustre pack at 11 this week.
He racked up a few costly dropped balls in the first half that probably cost the Reds some five-pointers, but he bagged a pair of tries himself when they were starting to break away with the game and did enough to redeem himself in the second half.
12. Duncan Paia’aua (Reds)
Paia’aua was a part of a Reds backline that tore the Kings to shreds for the bulk of 80 minutes in Brisbane.
He was arguably the most threatening of the outside backs without scoring a try himself, playing the role of creator as he broke the line on the left edge in particular and created space down the edges for his men out wide.
13. Samu Kerevi (Reds)
Kerevi is in the same boat as Paia’aua as a damaging runner out wide, breaking the line and creating the offload that helped them to seven tries for the game.
He made a few defensive mistakes, but he made up for it with ball in hand.
14. Henry Speight (Brumbies)
It was a busy weekend for the three men wearing the 14 jersey, with five tries coming between them, including two for Brumby Henry Speight who edges his way into the side on the right wing.
He topped the metres made for both sides with a mammoth 158 down the right edge, bagging a pair to keep his side on par with the Rebels.
His ability to break tackles and make the clean breaks as he continues to push for that Wallabies spot were a highlight in an otherwise disappointing result for the Brumbies.
15. Karmichael Hunt (Reds)
I’ve been a big fan of Karmichael Hunt this season and his rugby has taken huge strides of improvement, finally starting to look comfortable in the 15-man game.
Hunt was most damaging in broken play, especially on the kick return, and just ran holes through the Kings defence who had nothing on him for most of the game, apart from one particular incident when he was run inside out three times to let a try in, but it was a little mark on an otherwise dominant performance from the back.
Do you agree with the XV? You’re sporting fans, of course you don’t, so let us know who you think should or shouldn’t be in the side for this week.