World Rugby's Team of the Weekend: Le Roux Lights Up Durban
The second weekend of the international window saw all the big guns in action and some fine individual performances.
Only Ireland managed to topple one of the big four from the Southern Hemisphere but it is from the fixtures between New Zealand and England, Australia and France and South Africa and Wales where some world-class displays form this week’s team.
15. Willie Le Roux
An honourable mention has to go to Ben Smith, who was man for the match for New Zealand against England. He broke tackles, counter-attacked with menace, scored one try and made another.
He also performed a try-saving tackle on Manu Tuilagi after chasing the England man 90 metres back down the field. He was in a different class to the rest of the players on the field.
It was going to take some performance from another full-back to top that, and Willie Le Roux delivered it.
The Cheetahs man had a hand in four of the Springboks’ five tries, scoring one and creating two for Bryan Habana with fantastic footwork and silky handling. He was too hot to handle for Wales.
11. Julian Savea
A quick mention for Marland Yarde, whose try was scored after brushing off the tackle of Richie McCaw, no less.
Yarde was busy all night in Dunedin and his work was largely polished. He has much more to come to reach the level of Julian Savea, however.
Again, he scored against England, and again, he gave a masterclass is doing all the simple things well, appearing in space, and finishing brilliantly. Hard to think of a better wing in the world at the moment.
14. Bryan Habana
The arch finisher was at it again in Durban with two classic scores.
Habana was fast enough to latch on to Willie Le Roux’s dainty chip and had the skill and composure to ground the ball before he went hurtling over the dead ball line.
His second was made again by Le Roux who gave him the space to sneak up the touchline and execute another neat dot down.
13. Conrad Smith
Quiet in patches but still a cut above in most of what he did. Smith brought the composure to New Zealand’s play that England’s midfielders struggled uphold.
12. Ma’a Nonu
Nonu made some important gains for New Zealand, even when they were on the back foot against England. His kicking game also release pressure in the first half when the tourists were in the ascendancy.
He scored a fine try in the second half as well to underline the quality he still possesses for this team.
Steyn contributed 13 points to the Springboks’ win over Wales and marshaled a back line missing a number of key figures. A solid display by a no-frills sort of No. 10 who now has some flair outside him.
Fourie du Preez
Du Preez was fast, incisive and calculated at the base of South Africa’s powerful pack, delivering a sliver service to Morne Steyn and taking responsibility for the tempo his team played the game at. He seems to be getting better with age.
8. Jerome Kaino
Kaino impressed again as Kieran Read’s stand-in at No. 8, proving he, too, can help link play and create tries. His power was also evident in his ball carrying and tackling. With Liam Messam seeming a little off-colour in the blindside flank berth, when Read returns, Kaino may well fill that slot.
7. Francois Louw
Louw was the stand-out No. 7 of the weekend in a South African pack that won the physical battle hands-down with Wales. The Bath man was far superior at the breakdown and made few errors.
6. Scott Fardy
A grisly game called for some grisly back rowers in Melbourne, and Scott Fardy obliged by getting his head down and going toe-to-toe with the illustrious names of the French back row.
5. Geoff Parling
Parling put a massive defensive shift in in Dunedin and ran his lineout well. It says a lot for the respect the England management have for him that they left Courtney Lawes on the bench for this test. Parling repaid them, and deserves to keep his place next week.
4. Brodie Retallick
Retallick was everywhere against England. The young All Black lock got through an enormous amount of ball carrying and defensive work while he was faultless at the lineout. He has matured quickly.
3. Davey Wilson
Wilson didn’t have the same destructive impact on the All Black scrum we saw last week, but he was far better around the field than in the first Test. The ball stuck a bit more and his carrying was effective.
2. Dane Coles
Coles was far more visible in the loose in the second Test and his lineout functioned better. He also spearheaded a much more solid New Zealand scrum that was battered a week previously.
1. James Slipper
More positive signs from the Australian scrum against a much-changed French pack. In a game that offered about as much entertainment as a queue at the post office, the Wallabies scrummage was the stronger of the two, with this man the cornerstone.