Super Rugby Aotearoa

Super Rugby: 2 SA-linked players sparkle

Wes Goosen (Supplied)
Wes Goosen (Supplied)
  • Top honours are split between two penetrative Hurricanes backliners, Peter Umaga-Jensen and Wes Goosen.
  • Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu saved his best for last as a key repelling factor against the desperate Chiefs.
  • Once familiar to Newlands fans, Matt Toomua was a cool controller of the No 10 channel for the Rebels.

It's a slightly unorthodox, more crowded Sport24 "podium" for champagne Super Rugby individual showings in either New Zealand or Australia this week.

Scratching my head to separate Hurricanes outside backs Peter Umaga-Jensen and Wes Goosen for their starring roles in ending the Crusaders' unbeaten record in Aotearoa, they instead earn "gold" together after the thrilling 34-32 triumph in Christchurch on Saturday.

But East London-born Goosen isn't the only South African-associated player to be honoured in the latest round of matches.

Stalwart Rebels flyhalf Matt Toomua, who played a handful of games for Western Province as a late teenager in 2009, nips in for bronze after spearheading their 29-10 downing of the Waratahs.

Here are the recipients of gold, silver and bronze medals I eventually opted for:

GOLD: PETER UMAGA-JENSEN and WES GOOSEN (Hurricanes)

They were the major attacking string-pullers, almost without doubt, as the 'Canes earned a memorable, slightly upset away win against the leaders.

There were shades of Jaque Fourie in the way the tall, sturdy Umaga-Jensen, not usually among the premier superstars of the Wellingtonian cause, bossed the outside centre channel and broke through tackles.

A nephew of former Hurricanes and All Black legend Tana Umaga, the 2016 NZ U20 representative straightened their line shrewdly, and had a hand in both Goosen tries.

Then, in the second half, he got on the board himself in the 62nd minute, crashing over in a blur of bodies out wide – a thrust so committed that he injured himself and had to be replaced immediately afterwards.

Goosen, who had ironically beaten another SA-born player in the form of Kobus van Wyk to right wing selection, fully justified his choice with his brace of clinical, fast-paced finishes.

He also did a good job in most instances of marking opposite number George Bridge.

SILVER: PATRICK TUIPULOTU (Blues)

You needed to have watched the big fellow closely to appreciate just how critical the Blues' captain and rugged second-rower was in their desperately tense 21-17 victory over the Chiefs on Sunday.

As the desperate, still winless visitors threw everything at their hosts in the dying minutes, Tuipulotu's huge frame came in immensely handy at close quarters on two or three occasions where they got within a fingernail of the try-line.

Remember that he is a No 4, enforcer-style lock and they tend to be players removed from the action for fresher legs around the hour mark: instead the skipper saw out the entire clash and also won the key final lineout to ensure the Blues could boot for touch after the siren and register the important result that keeps their title hopes alive.

His best rugby came in the first and last quarters, really; the 27-year-old had bulldozed his way over for a score in the 14th minute, employing a suitably low body position, and he nearly added another in the second half when he was stopped just short with several defenders on his back and front.

With Brodie Retallick on a sabbatical, 30-cap Tuipulotu will be very much in the frame for fresh international starting action for the All Blacks later this year.

BRONZE: MATT TOOMUA (Rebels)

Who still remembers a fresh-faced Toomua's short stint at Newlands 11 years ago?

In the days when Peter Grant and Willem de Waal were home-based options at pivot for Western Province, the 19-year-old Aussie wunderkind reinforced them further in a useful learning period abroad for him in the Currie Cup.

Now an altogether more street-smart, Wallaby-capped player aged 30, Toomua gave a textbook display in flyhalf game management, I felt, as the Melbourne outfit dismantled the Waratahs 29-10 in Super Rugby AU at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Apart from his dead-eye place-kicking providing 19 points, the versatile player, just as accomplished at No 12 when required there, kept the ball shrewdly in front of his willing pack much of the time as the Rebels' often conservative game-plan paid dividends.

But for a man standing only around 1.81m in his boots, Toomua put his body on the line courageously in a defensive capacity and his clever touches came into play a few times as well.

He was aided by the lively showing of try-scoring scrumhalf partner Ryan Louwrens, Johannesburg-born and seemingly trying to match Eben Etzebeth for bicep size…

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing