The Big Rugby Championship Question: The standout individuals

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    We’ve hit the second bye week of the Rugby Championship, and the focus this week turns to the individuals to have really grabbed our attention during the 2016 tournament.

    And it’s a worthwhile exercise on a number of fronts. When your team is a bit up and down like three of the four teams have been this season, it’s easy to just keep kicking cans and overlook the standout players.

    So that was the challenge this week. Chin up, everyone!

    The Big Question: From your respective country, who’s been the standout contributor during The Rugby Championship in 2016? (from Brett)

    Nobes: “Another brutal week. Meanwhile, the All Blacks have widened the gap.

    “The Jaguares – sorry, I meant the Pumas but I could not help myself with the analogy – played a very disappointing game and Australia had no mercy on them.

    “The answer to the question for Argentina is a natural pick with Agustin Creevy. However, on this occasion I choose Facundo Isa. The man is the leading ball carrier (62), has had six clean breaks, beat 14 defenders, gained 251 metres (six metres shy of the leader Ben Smith), and quite successfully has managed to be all over the field.

    “He deserves to be elected as the main contributor to the Pumas team.”

    Harry: “It has to be one of the 320-minute Warren Whiteley, who has not contributed to the Springboks’ high error count; the lively Pieter-Steph du Toit, or the almost indefatigable (and one tackle-miss) Eben Etzebeth. It cannot be a back.

    “I’ll probably go with Whiteley, even with his relatively mild tackling style, because he was fearless, owns the back of the lineout, fought to the end of every Test, and is beating defenders at will. Du Toit would be my alternate.

    “The backs, except for Bryan Habana and unlucky Ruan Combrinck, have played rubbish: directionless, wary, and small.”

    Digger: “From New Zealand there would be quite a few. Beauden Barrett’s form has been outstanding at times, while the Smiths and Dane Coles have shined at various points.

    “However the chappie I would like to nominate, in my view, would be Brodie Retallick for his pure consistency of performance. Now a mainstay of the tight five, his work rate both with and off the ball is astonishing and the All Blacks would be poorer for his absence and is a pivotal member of this machine.

    “On form, he’s arguably the one player that is currently irreplaceable within the starting side.”

    Brett: It’s clearly Will Genia for the Wallabies. Not too many Australian players have managed to play even at a consistent level, but Genia has got better and better with every outing, capped off with his two-try effort against Argentina on the weekend.

    Of course, it’s worth remembering that he’s not played a lot rugby in 2016, and was coming off a long layoff going into the first Bledisloe Test back in mid-August. Regardless, I honestly think Genia is back playing probably his best rugby for the Wallabies in the last couple of years.

    What has been noticeable, and particularly in these last two games in Brisbane and Perth is that he’s running again, either sniping from the base of the ruck or committing defenders on the edge to create more space for Quade Cooper and co out wider, or genuinely spying half gaps and having a crack himself, which was a hallmark of the Reds’ run to the Super Rugby title five years ago.

    A little bit has been said on this site about the development of local players being held back by the players returning from Europe, but let’s not forget, Genia is 28, not 34. And he’s less than a year older than Nick Phipps anyway; he’s not holding anyone up.

    Bonus Question: Who has scored the try of The Rugby Championship to date?

    Nobes: “One of my favourites this season is the try create by my team, the one scored by Matias Orlando in South Africa.

    “To fully appreciate it, one has to dig a bit earlier than what you can see in the regular game highlights, exactly at the 24-minute mark. The Pumas were playing with 14 men on the field (Manuel Montero was out with a yellow card) and everything started at the Pumas own 22 metre line. I’ll describe it from here:

    An escape on the left side by Martin Landajo, Facundo Isa, and Joaquin Tuculet playing the ball back and forward went on until Tuculet went down in a high tackle by guess who? Oupa Mohoje. Then, after a quick ruck, the ball is played to the right side by Landajo, then to Nicolas Sanchez, then to Creevy, then to Santiago Cordero who makes a long pass skipping two other Argentine players to finally reach Matias Orlando, who makes the triumphant run over the try line.

    Harry: “The Wallabies’ second try in Perth!

    Adam Coleman rose high at the back and Stephen Moore found him. A flip to David Pocock, who pirouetted, then popped the pill to the seriously in-form Will Genia. Genia delivered a bullet to his partner-in-crime, Quade Cooper, and the Red bearded one left a no-look ball in the hole for Dane Haylett-Petty to scorch on to and finish in style. Brilliant!


    “This try was around the 53rd minute of the Test between New Zealand and Argentina. The score was 24-22 in favour of the All Blacks and was the turning point of that match in what had been a hotly contested affair to that point.

    All Black lineout, thirty out. Keiran Read wins in the middle, TJ Perenara to Ryan Crotty, short ball to Malakai Fekitoa, crash in midfield just short of the 22m, slow ball, under pressure, Perenara throws a pass behind Wyatt Crockett, Barrett cleans up on the run, back around the ruck, around Isa, straightens, splits Ramiro Herrera and Nahuel Chapero, inside the 22, bought down by Sanchez in cover, pops from the ground to Jerome Kaino who takes the contact, Perenara out to Barrett on the run, in between Matias Alemanno and Matera, commits the cover of Cordero roaming the back, throws a beautiful ball to Crotty in traffic whose superb angled run leaves Orlando in no man’s land to score untouched under the posts.

    “From there, the All Blacks pulled away from the Pumas, all created from essentially nothing by Barrett. Great try. Brilliant, just brilliant.”

    Brett: I’m a sucker for set play tries, so I was all set to wax lyrical about the Haylett-Petty try as well, especially the similarities between it and the try Adam Ashley-Cooper scored against the ‘Boks in Brisbane last year. But given that try is now so five paragraphs ago…

    The other one to stand out for me was also last weekend, but it stands out for its simplicity and perfect execution.

    Elton Jantjies fired a pass sideways less than ten metres from the All Blacks line with nothing really doing – no great surprise there – and Warren Whiteley takes it with Read in front of him, and Kaino watching from the outside.

    A very simple right-left stutter step from Whiteley is enough to stand Read up completely, and as he heads out again, he finds Bryan Habana running the perfect out-in line to storm through the gap without Kaino getting a touch on him.

    It’s a simple little play from nothing, really, but it was one of those moments where you’re reminded that even the very best defenders can make a simple over-read in defence.


    Week 4: Twos all round!

    Perhaps in a sign of the tipping to come over the remaining weeks, we all stayed pretty logical last week and picked the All Blacks and Wallabies and reaped the benefits of favouritism.

    A quick shout-out to everyone who lodged selections last week, too; we took 566 responses all up, which is a new record for TRC, and is only beaten by one or two other rounds of Super Rugby tipping in 2016. So thanks to all of you, it’s a major reason why this panel has become the weekly success it has.

    The Summary

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (103)

    • September 22nd 2016 @ 5:46am
      Rebel said | September 22nd 2016 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      I have to comment on the attitude of Will Genia which is similar to how Giteau returned from France. Gone is the sense of entitlement that hampered his game just before he left. It seems now he to is playing like a person who is truely appreciating he opportunity to be representing his country and the results speak volume. I wouldn’t say he has been humbled by being away, but definitely matured a lot. I also see thes similarities in QC, I really like what I see from their attitudes and Aus rugby will benefit from it.

      • September 22nd 2016 @ 6:14am
        jaysper said | September 22nd 2016 @ 6:14am | ! Report

        I’m well on record as not thinking much of QC as a player, but even I have to admit that his attitude seems to have had a significant adjustment for the better.

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 11:38am
          Phil said | September 22nd 2016 @ 11:38am | ! Report

          Concur with both the above comments but particularly re Genia.He had turned into a real nasty,angry at everyone type in his last couple of seasons here.Possibly due to the culture in his faltering Reds team,but now he looks like the Genia of old,back when we all cheered him steering the Reds to the title.I am a Tahs supporter,by the way!

    • September 22nd 2016 @ 5:47am
      Nobrain said | September 22nd 2016 @ 5:47am | ! Report

      Small correction, the man with the yellow card in The Pumas try was Manuel Montero and not Pablo Matera, although I understand the mild mistake since Pablo Matera is sent out often.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2016 @ 8:07am
        Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:07am | ! Report

        Agree with your comment it was the Jags, not the Puma, in Perth last week. And for my Wallaby maybe just as well eh 🙂

      • Columnist

        September 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am
        Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        All fixed now and apologies, Nobes, simple misread on my part. Though you make a good point about it being a force of habit with Matera!

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 9:22am
          Nobrain said | September 22nd 2016 @ 9:22am | ! Report


          • September 23rd 2016 @ 1:07am
            Martin Santurtun said | September 23rd 2016 @ 1:07am | ! Report

            Brett,I am amazed how almost everybody seems to believe that the Pumas have a terrible discipline but when I look at the stats on YC for the RCH 1) WAL with 3, 2) AB with 2, 3) Pumas with 1 and 4) SA with nill – It is a bit more serious when I look at the JAGS stats were they stand 2nd with 8 YC tied with WARATHAS and the leader is Reds with 10
            Just a comment!

            • Roar Guru

              September 23rd 2016 @ 5:07am
              Harry Jones said | September 23rd 2016 @ 5:07am | ! Report

              Martin, to me the greater problem is a high error rate, squad depth, and self-belief.

    • September 22nd 2016 @ 5:51am
      jaysper said | September 22nd 2016 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      Dane Coles surely, simply because Hookers don’t play like that.
      Barrett and a few others have been awesome, but have mostly played their roles as you would expect them to be played – but just played them VERY well.
      In the case of Coles, the fact that he has done some crazy stuff that Hookers just DON’T do has been well highlighted here and in the media.
      Seeing a hooker act as a pseudo playmaker, putting players into gaps and chip and chase just warms your heart (provided you are an ABs supporter).

      • Roar Rookie

        September 22nd 2016 @ 7:11am
        Simon Duprier said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:11am | ! Report

        I decided after Conrad Smith left that Sam Whitelock would be my new favourite All Black but how can you not love what Dane Coles does? That little chip he attempted as he flew down the wing against the Boks sums it up, as does how pissed off he was at himself for buggering it up. I don’t think it’ll be too long before he adds tricks like that to his arsenal. Wonder how long it’ll be before he attempts a drop goal?

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 8:34am
          Browny said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:34am | ! Report

          It does feel like the way Coles is progressing he’ll finish his career capable of playing 2, 7 (loose), and then anywhere 9-15. Maybe tactical kicking for touch in the corner will be the next thing he adds. Or a fully-fledged Campese goose step. Or like you said, the drop goal…

          The guy is a freak.

          • Columnist

            September 22nd 2016 @ 10:16am
            Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:16am | ! Report

            *loads up, throws it out there*

            So, kind of like Michael Hooper?

            *takes cover, runs…*

            • September 22nd 2016 @ 11:22am
              Akari said | September 22nd 2016 @ 11:22am | ! Report

              Que? What has a one-dimensional Hooper got to do with the brilliance of Coles, Brett?

              • Columnist

                September 22nd 2016 @ 11:49am
                Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 11:49am | ! Report

                I made that comment in obvious jest, Akari, but that’s a harsh assessment if you think Hooper has only dimension to his game..

              • September 22nd 2016 @ 4:21pm
                Dave_S said | September 22nd 2016 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

                Nonsense, Hooper is the only Wallaby who comes close to Coles for versatility. He’s our Woolworths.

            • September 22nd 2016 @ 12:46pm
              Paul said | September 22nd 2016 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              If you feed them, they will come…

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2016 @ 7:14am
        Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:14am | ! Report

        Hi Jaysper,

        Fair enough too, Coles has been outstanding but my view is based on consistency of performance across all of the matches which I was why I nominated Retallick. Coles was outplayed by Creevy in Hamilton in my view.

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 10:47am
          jaysper said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          I’m a bit like a cat chasing the laser pointer perhaps?
          Right now Coles is the shiniest AB on the field 😛
          Theres a lot to like about this current ABs squad, that’s for sure Digger.
          It says a LOT about the squad that we are even debating this question, let alone the fact that we are both on equally solid ground with our opinions!

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 2:25pm
          CUW said | September 22nd 2016 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

          @ Diggercane

          dont think he was outplayed in all aspects but probably in the scrums , yes.

          i think Coles forgot his game , just like he did in the 2nd test against auzzy.

          IMO the difference between a good and bad performance is how much of ur natural game u bring on that particular day.

          for example Coleman played very well against the argies – but he was pathetic against nz.

        • Roar Guru

          September 23rd 2016 @ 12:41am
          Harry Jones said | September 23rd 2016 @ 12:41am | ! Report

          Digger and Jaysper, I had the same problem in analysing Boks. I went with consistency and high minutes in my selection of PSDT, Etzebeth and Whiteley as the Boks’ best in this RC, and then I think Whiteley has really avoided the errors which were killing SA, whilst still making plays that counted.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2016 @ 8:10pm
        ThugbyFan said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

        Spot on Jaysper, in the last match against SB just how good was that pass by D.Coles to the lock (I think) standing out on the wing. Even Will Skelton would have scored from that pass. Pure brilliance, AND a hooker.

        Come on S.Moore, 25m passes bang on the winger’s chest please! LoL

        And the Wellington Digger is bang on, Retallick has been awesome every AB game I’ve seen this year. He and EE from South Africa have got to be the two best 2nd rowers going around a paddock for many a year.

      • September 24th 2016 @ 11:53pm
        etienne marais said | September 24th 2016 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

        [Coles] …just warms your heart (provided you are an ABs supporter).

        My blood is deeply green, but hell, I enjoy watching him play. he’s just such a complete athlete.

    • September 22nd 2016 @ 7:24am
      Jerome said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      You must be struggling to come up with ideas on what to write about Brett..

      • Columnist

        September 22nd 2016 @ 7:56am
        Geoff Parkes said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:56am | ! Report

        It was either this or a list of the most pointless posts of the season.

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 7:59am
          Riccardo said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:59am | ! Report


        • Roar Guru

          September 22nd 2016 @ 8:00am
          Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          Taken head-on with good leg drive to render the attack useless. Redundant. Pointless.

        • Roar Guru

          September 22nd 2016 @ 8:15am
          Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:15am | ! Report

          That would be a good list.

          I feel I could dominate that list.

          • Columnist

            September 22nd 2016 @ 8:40am
            Geoff Parkes said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:40am | ! Report

            I think squirrel’s got you covered

            • Roar Guru

              September 22nd 2016 @ 8:43am
              Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:43am | ! Report

              That’s nuts…

            • Roar Guru

              September 22nd 2016 @ 8:47am
              Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:47am | ! Report

              Yes, sadly I think you are right.

              Must lift my game, using Chook as an inspiration.

            • Roar Guru

              September 22nd 2016 @ 10:10am
              Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:10am | ! Report

              Ah yes Digger feint praise indeed!

              This is why I undoubtedly get paid the big bucks eh.

              • Roar Guru

                September 22nd 2016 @ 10:51am
                Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:51am | ! Report

                You should start invoicing, implement an Orca tax.

        • Columnist

          September 22nd 2016 @ 8:41am
          Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:41am | ! Report

          I was half inclined to enquire why Jerome thinks he knows the limitations of my thinking, but I think this has been suitably dealt with now!

          It really was a pointless post, Jerome. I hope you can do better the next time you pop up around here..

          • Roar Guru

            September 22nd 2016 @ 10:09am
            Carlos the Argie said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:09am | ! Report

            There are plenty of Jerome’s and they are not like Kaino.

          • September 22nd 2016 @ 10:26am
            rebel said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            Brett, is Jerome your favorite stalker’s latest incarnation?

            • Columnist

              September 22nd 2016 @ 10:38am
              Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 10:38am | ! Report

              Haha, no, I don’t think so. But I will say this: Bernard Foley is a completely overrated hack…

              (if Jerome bites on that hook, then we’ll know 🙂 )

              I did laugh at the sudden appearance of Whispering Jack this week though. Old mate Essa’s certainly had as many comebacks as John Farnham.. 😆

              • September 22nd 2016 @ 11:47am
                rebel said | September 22nd 2016 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                Yes it is amazing how some think a name change will suddenly disguise their writing style. nice pick up on the Farnsey reference.

              • Columnist

                September 22nd 2016 @ 11:51am
                Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 11:51am | ! Report

                I’ll be surprised if ‘Jerome’ is Jerome’s one and only incarnation, Rebel, for what it’s worth..

              • Roar Guru

                September 23rd 2016 @ 2:01am
                Carlos the Argie said | September 23rd 2016 @ 2:01am | ! Report

                Topo Rodriguez reminded people that Foley made some statements on Linkedin. Topo wasn’t happy and replies there.

                I am sure you can find it…. Look it up!

          • September 22nd 2016 @ 3:32pm
            Jerome said | September 22nd 2016 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            Points subject for an article Brett. Did I hit a nerve? Oh cry me a river LOL

            • Columnist

              September 22nd 2016 @ 5:10pm
              Brett McKay said | September 22nd 2016 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

              You didn’t hit anything, Jerome, that’s why everyone has reacted the way they have!

              You’re trying to be clever by taking pot shots at me (for reasons unknown), when just a tiny bit of clicking around would’ve told you this has been a regular thing on a Thursday all year.

              Instead, you just end up coming across like a prat..

              • September 23rd 2016 @ 7:08am
                Jerome said | September 23rd 2016 @ 7:08am | ! Report

                “…everyone has reacted the way they have..”???? You mean all 6 of them. Its now 2 days since this so called article has been posted…91 comments and reactions? Proves my point….try writing something Brett instead of your childish name-calling

              • Columnist

                September 23rd 2016 @ 11:30am
                Brett McKay said | September 23rd 2016 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                Again, Jerome, you’re yet to make any point. You’ve contributed nothing to the discussion.

                But feel free to make all the points you want:

                By all means, go right ahead.

            • September 22nd 2016 @ 6:00pm
              Connor33 said | September 22nd 2016 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              Prat is one, polite, way of putting it, Brett. Sad, silly and, hey, I’m sorry for you Jerome are others.

              With a little luck, he’ll contribute something sensible next time. We hold our breathe….

            • September 23rd 2016 @ 5:02am
              Muz said | September 23rd 2016 @ 5:02am | ! Report

              You must be new on here jerome.
              Either that or you’re a total ball bag.
              Good article btw Brett.

    • Roar Guru

      September 22nd 2016 @ 7:57am
      Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Thanks guys for a little something to chew over in a RC bye week.

      Standouts for my Wallaby have been all the ‘newbies’ who have contributed beyond real expectation. And the resurgence of a 9 and 10 combo for the Wallaby is also pleasing, and I therefore hope it continues.

      Try of the season thus far… easy as it’s any try that the Wallaby can score! 🙂

      Looking very much forward to the Bok and Wallaby test and both sides going at it next w’end.

    • September 22nd 2016 @ 7:59am
      Riccardo said | September 22nd 2016 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      I like your plug for Brodie, Digger but it’s another forward I’d like to recognise.

      Kaino has been simply immense in this tournament so far and is almost back to his demanding 2011 form.

      I’d also like to endorse Nobes’ choice of Isa. It’s easy to anoint the enthusiastic Creevy, who really did do a number on Coles in Hamilton but Isa also outplayed Read for large parts of that game and has been a highlight for mine.

      I also like Whiteley Harry, but he is somewhat compromised by the inability of the Boks’ back-row to play as a unit; you must be overjoyed at the return of Lambie and le Roux next week.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2016 @ 8:04am
        Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Yeah Riccardo… Kaino has been massive. Or rather Kaino like!

        • Roar Guru

          September 22nd 2016 @ 8:18am
          Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          Orca massive?

          • Roar Guru

            September 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am
            Machooka said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am | ! Report

            Orca Whale Kaino massive!!

          • Roar Guru

            September 22nd 2016 @ 8:15pm
            ThugbyFan said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

            I thought S.Hansen said the Bus was a whale. 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2016 @ 8:17am
        Diggercane said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        Excellent call that Ric, Kaino keeps on keeping on!

        Am surprised with the Whiteley call, Eztebeth stands out to me for the Boks though it definitely cant be a back.

        • September 22nd 2016 @ 2:31pm
          CUW said | September 22nd 2016 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          actually PSDT played better than EE IMO.

          pity he rarely starts , becoz i think he is the kind of second row that is making people stand up in nz – like Fifita, Fatialofa, Seu …. the 2nd row blindside hybrid ( like Itoje 🙂 )

          • Roar Guru

            September 22nd 2016 @ 8:40pm
            Harry Jones said | September 22nd 2016 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

            Yeah, I like him best at blindside. EE-Lood-PSDT: that’s a lot of Bok coming at you

            • September 25th 2016 @ 12:31am
              etienne marais said | September 25th 2016 @ 12:31am | ! Report

              Harry, I agree with your “Whiteley most valuable Bok on the day” point. Being a proponent of the “nobody but Thor at eight” brigade, I have been a bit sceptical about a niche for Whiteley (although I have had huge respect for him since 2014 already). Have to say, I have become used to his Effective Efficiency doctrine at eight, in lieu of Thor’s Shock and Awe approach. I get the impression that WW wants to play as as possible of the game on his feet, and that he prefers to end defensive contact with a shot at the ball and the next move, instead of inflicting as much collateral damage as possible. There is a nice moment in last weeks test: The Gentleman Ben Smith is on his way to the try-line, some combined scramble-defence (incl WW) puts him down [37:14], and his head and neck ends up between WW’s thighs. The following frontal slow-mo shows nicely how Genlteman Whiteley does his utmost, under great pressure from cattle falling all-over the show, to keep his right leg in the air, so as not to put the vice on Smith’s neck. Precious moment. I wonder what Bakkies Botha would have done in that situation! (I think the speech bubble would have read: “Smell my crotch, Nice Guy!!”

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