New Zealand Team of the Week: Super Rugby Round Four

Ngani Laumape celebrates his second try for the Hurricanes against the Highlanders. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Having nursed bruised egos for the last week after a loss to the Chiefs, the defending champions Hurricanes delivered a statement performance against the Highlanders in a repeat of the 2015 Super Rugby final.

The Crusaders continue to make a mockery of the need to deliver an 80 minute performance, with their third consecutive second half comeback seeing them stun the Blues, while the Chiefs remain unbeaten following a scratchy win over the Melbourne Rebels across the Tasman.

Let's have a look at the top performers of the week.


15. Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes)

There's been a serious amount of hype surrounding Jordie Barrett but the 20-year-old showcased that potential in spades against the Highlanders at the weekend. A pinpoint chip kick put Ngani Laumape away for his first try, while the strength to keep Matt Faddes at bay before the naughtiest of behind the back offloads to Matt Proctor to score was sublime. Not sure fullback is his best position though.

14. Vince Aso (Hurricanes)

Talk about taking an opportunity. Aso was a late inclusion back in the first round for the Hurricanes in the unfamiliar position of wing after Cory Jane pulled up lame, and he hasn't looked back since. He's now scored six tries -- two of which coming against the Highlanders -- to lead the try scoring charts for the competition and provide Chris Boyd's side with serious speed and strength on the right flank.

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)

Nothing flashy in a surprisingly close game against the Rebels, but Lienert-Brown did his chances of wearing the All Blacks No. 13 jersey against the Lions no harm with a Conrad Smith type performance to help keep the Chiefs unbeaten. Lienert-Brown made 69 metres -- beating four defenders -- including his last run which put away Shaun Stevenson for his side's bonus-point try.

12. Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)

Anyone who runs over Ben Smith deserves a spot in the team of the week. Laumape did his best Ma'a Nonu impersonation against the Highlanders with another bruising performance full of clean breaks and beating defenders. His champagne moment at the weekend was scooting around Marty Banks before bumping off Smith en route to the second of his two tries.

11. Matt Duffie (Blues)

Like Laumape, Duffie is starting to find his feet in union having made the switch from rugby league last year. The Blues winger was at his elusive best when Tana Umaga's side could hardly put a foot wrong in the first half against the Crusaders, with two clean breaks leading to Blues tries. Duffie's four offloads kept the attack going too.

10. Mitch Hunt (Crusaders)

Followed up a match-winning penalty against the Reds a week earlier with another clutch performance in the dying stages to get the Crusaders home against the Blues. Scored the crucial try to put the Crusaders ahead, while his goal-kicking was also key. To think he played for Auckland a couple of seasons ago.

9. Augustine Pulu (Blues)

Another brilliant attacking masterclass to give the Blues every chance of winning. His run and off-load out the back of the hand to see George Moala score was top-drawer but he went a step further with his behind the back pass to Patrick Tuipulotu who returned it to Pulu to side-step his way towards the try-line. Does the hard things well, just needs to work more on his game management.


1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson made an important substitute early in the second half when he brought Crockett on for Joe Moody who had been beaten twice in defence in two of the Blues first half tries. Crockett shored up the scrum and worked tirelessly in those two lineout pushover tries that got the Crusaders back in the contest.

2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes)

The Hurricanes captain was much more composed after taking his frustration out on the referee a week earlier against the Chiefs. A dagger line-out throw early in the match saw Ardie Savea drive over for the Hurricanes first try, while he showed plenty of determination [and a wonderful dive] to help prevent Aaron Smith from scoring late in the first half.

3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)

I imagine it's never easy getting dragged at half-time when you're down 21-5 at half-time, yet Franks came back on midway through the second half in a 10 minute cameo and came up with a couple of big plays as the Crusaders turned the screws. He stepped in to halfback and laid off the key pass to Mitch Hunt who dove over to put the Crusaders in front.

4. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)

Has really stepped up since his appointment as Crusaders captain. Came up big in the second half with two fantastic lineout takes -- one of them one-handed -- as the Crusaders rumbled over for two push over tries from the set piece. Fifteen tackles in a huge 80 minute shift is testament to his work rate.

5. Michael Fatialofa (Hurricanes)

Cut out the silly stuff -- like the no arms tackle against the Chiefs last week -- from his game and got stuck into his work in a thorough 80 minute performance. Led the tackle count for the Hurricanes with 12, while came up with a crucial line-out steal to cap a strong outing in the capital.

6. Elliot Dixon (Highlanders)

Never easy to stand out in a losing performance, but Dixon can hold his head high with another strong game for the injury-ridden Highlanders. Showed serious strength to dive over for a try to keep his side in the game before the Hurricanes piled on the points, while he was effective defensively and at the set-piece.

7. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

I know he played No. 8 against the Highlanders, but I have to keep room for the man at the back of the Crusaders scrum. You could put Savea anywhere on the field and he'd have a profound impact. His work-rate and skill is superb. Somehow managed to win a lineout and get to the back of the drive to score in one move, while his work defensively to deny Malakai Fekitoa after his brother got gassed was fantastic.

8. Whetu Douglas (Crusaders)

Continue to be impressed with this Waikato workhorse who refuses to quit. Held his own coming up against Jerome Kaino as his opposite, Douglas got through a mountain of work particularly on defence where he once again led the Crusaders tackle count with 17. Interesting to see where he fits in once Kieran Read returns.