He’s the form No.7 among the Australian sides at the moment, although the best over the ball is undoubtedly Rebels No.8 Richard Hardwick.
And speaking of unsung heroes, the quality of Reece Hodge’s work in the Rebels No.13 jersey against the Waratahs was excellent.
3. Reds find their balance.
James O’Connor changed the game against the Brumbies when he came on at halftime. Looking kilograms lighter than last year, his pace and ability to get around the field has clearly improved. He wasn’t as good as the Rebels’ Carter Gordon in the No.10 jersey, but he will surely slot in to the playmaker role for the remainder of the Reds’ season – likely to the satisfaction of Eddie Jones.
But, the Reds were also helped by the introduction of Jock Campbell at No.15. The Reds look better with Campbell at fullback, with doubts persisting about Jordan Petaia’s high-ball work and kicking.
That means Brad Thorn has a decision looming on Suliasi Vunivalu, who was replaced after 50-odd minutes on Saturday.
Petaia will grab one wing spot – he’s a force with the ball in hand – but Vunivalu is no guarantee of winning the other spot ahead of Filipo Daugunu.
4. Trip to Fiji can be Super Rugby’s toughest
The Crusaders’ decision to send a weakened team to face the Drua in Fiji – they are required by New Zealand Rugby to use All Blacks ‘rest weeks’ on test players – raised some eyebrows even before Saturday’s big upset. The Highlanders and Chiefs both won in Fiji last year, but not before surviving major scares, and the Drua are clearly a more physical and resilient outfit this season.
The Rebels and Reds have drawn the short straw among the Australian sides this year – they both have to travel to Suva – and the combination of the heat, the home support and the unrelenting physicality of the Fijians is going to make this trip one that sides will approach with a high degree of trepidation. Big flanker Joseva Tamani is a joy to watch.
5. What makes a good coach? Good players.
England, Wales and Australia aren’t the only nations to buy into the ‘new coach will solve everything’ fallacy, and they won’t be the last. Yet, it endures.
England were humiliated by France at Twickenham, with new boy Steve Borthwick quickly learning that coaching Leicester isn’t like coaching England, and their woes weren’t all Eddie Jones’ fault.
Warren Gatland enjoyed his first win of his second stint in charge of Wales – against Italy – but does anyone seriously doubt that the success of his first spell was heavily indebted to the presence of generational players such as Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies?
Meanwhile, Scott Robertson’s Crusaders continue to look like most other teams in Super Rugby the minute they rest Richie Mo’unga.
The Crusaders still started with five All Blacks against the Drua on Saturday, but they normally have Mo’unga and four or five other Test players. Coaches are ultimately defined by the players at their disposal.
Cully’s team of the week
1 Matt Gibbon (Rebels)
2 Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies)
3 Cabous Eloff (Rebels)
4 Nick Frost (Brumbies)
5 Trevor Hosea (Rebels)
6 Rob Valetini (Brumbies)
7 Rory Scott (Brumbies)
8 Harry Wilson (Reds)
9 Nic White (Brumbies)
10 Carter Gordon (Rebels) – Player of the Round
11 Monty Ioane (Rebels)
12 Stacey Ili (Rebels)
13 Reece Hodge (Rebels)
14 Jordan Petaia (Reds)
15 Tom Wright (Brumbies)
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