Some have put hands up, others not so much

Blues winger Rieko Ioane attempts to get away from Highlanders front rowers Tyrel Lomax (left)...
Blues winger Rieko Ioane attempts to get away from Highlanders front rowers Tyrel Lomax (left) and Liam Coltman at Forsyth Barr Stadium last Saturday night. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The Super Rugby competition is just past the halfway mark. So who are the players in form, who are the ones struggling and who might as well put the passport for Japan away now? Rugby writer Steve Hepburn picks a form XV from the five New Zealand teams in the competition.


Now that Damian McKenzie is injured and out of the reckoning, we can forget about all the schemes, ideas and trickery around the fullback role. Ben Smith is the best fullback in the country and is clearly No1. As for the rest: Melani Nanai - too erratic, Jordie Barrett - overrated, David Havili - miles behind Smith.

Right wing

Braydon Ennor is mainly a left winger but has popped up on the right wing on occasions and looks the goods. Has pace, skills and power. Wes Goosen is a quality operator who seems to do everything right for the Hurricanes, as does Sevu Reece for the Crusaders, in the rare time he starts.

How Goosen does not get a clear run in the Hurricanes is a complete mystery. Waisake Naholo has had a season to forget so far while the Blues and Chiefs do not have a lot on the right wing.


He may be playing in a very average side but Anton Lienert-Brown is playing well above himself. Started at second five-eighth but has played at centre. Making plenty of off-loads and speeding through gaps. Is a shade ahead of teacher's pet Jack Goodhue while TJ Faiane is doing good work for the Blues although running out of steam.

Second five-eighth

Let's just calm down about Ma'a Nonu. Sure, he has looked good in the past few games but others around are simply better. Ryan Crotty continues to set the standard and tends to do the right thing at the right time which is a handy asset in this day and age. Ngani Laumape has been a standout for the Hurricanes and has started the season with a hiss and a roar. Sonny Bill Williams has been absent for too long to make an impression.

Left wing

Rieko Ioane has scored eight tries in nine games - admittedly four in one game - and made 22 clean breaks. He is the best left winger by far in the competition.

Ben Lam does some good stuff for the Hurricanes and should be used more. The men out wide for the Crusaders are quality while there have been plenty of comings and goings for the Chiefs out wide. Tevita Li has been a constant for the Highlanders.

Shannon Frizell is on the run with Luke Whitelock in support while Ma'a Nonu tries to chase him...
Shannon Frizell is on the run with Luke Whitelock in support while Ma'a Nonu tries to chase him down. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
First five-eighth

There are really only two contenders, and Richie Mo'unga shades Beauden Barrett, who is more of a social media star these days. Will be interesting to see how things pan out in the second half of the season. And as for talk of getting Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga back - has no-one seen them play lately?


Aaron Smith was injured when he was really coming into his own, while TJ Perenara is playing consistently well. The Blues and Crusaders swap their halfbacks around seemingly every week. Brad Weber has been starting ahead of Te Toiroa Tahuiorangi for the Chiefs and there is a clear reason for that - he's better.

No 8

Kieran Read has only just started and is pacing himself. Luke Whitelock does nothing wrong and is so reliable. But the best so far has been Akira Ioane, although the Blues No8 has been slipping in the past couple of games. He is a powerful athlete, who can break a game open, although he can also drift through games.

Openside flanker

Ardie Savea had a game for the ages when the Hurricanes just beat the Highlanders. He has been in great form. Rest of the best include Matt Todd and James Lentjes while Blake Gibson was going well for the Blues before, of course, getting injured.

Blindside flanker

With Liam Squire not sighted, there is plenty of competition. Shannon Frizell is scoring tries and making metres while Blues man Tom Robinson has been a revelation in his first season. But is it more a case of ginger hair means more notice means more talk.

The rest are just muddling through. Shame for Gareth Evans to pick up a calf injury which has ruined his year so far.


Brodie Retallick has kept up his top form although injury and rests have got in the way. The young locks from the Highlanders have impressed while Patrick Tuipulotu has played well. Scott Barrett had come out of the starting blocks swiftly and is leading the Crusaders pack around the paddock. Sam Whitelock returned as good as ever.

Tighthead prop

There appears to be plenty of depth in the tighthead ranks with five bookends named for the All Blacks foundation day last week. Tyrel Lomax has made big strides for the Highlanders while Nepo Laulala is getting back into his work after injury and Ofa Tu'ungafasi is playing in fits and starts. Owen Franks has a worrying shoulder niggle.


Dane Cole has a troublesome calf, Nathan Harris keeps wandering around while Codie Taylor had a late start. But Liam Coltman just keeps on giving. He is a different rake to the other three but his top form cannot be ignored. Throwing could be better but it is not all his fault.

Loosehead prop

The hardest position on the field say many and not too many to get excited about. Big Karl Tu'inukuafe has been playing well while the Hurricanes have been changing guys around. Joe Moody got the now customary injury but has showed his class when needed.


Super Rugby
Form XV 

  • Ben Smith, Braydon Ennor, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, TJ Perenara, Akira Ioane, Ardie Savea, Shannon Frizell, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Joe Moody



Add a Comment