Super Rugby: Week 11 breakdown

2:54 pm on 29 April 2019

Opinion - Form has overtaken us a bit here so, before we wrap up week 11 of the Super Rugby competition, it's time to start the Sevu Reece conversation.

Sevu Reece will make his debut for the Crusaders against the Chiefs.

Sevu Reece's Super Rugby ascension in 2019 has put him into the All Blacks' World Cup conversation, according to Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

A curly one

On form, Crusaders wing Sevu Reece deserves to be in the All Blacks' discussion. Sadly, as we all know, Reece also has form of another sort.

The 22-year-old pleaded guilty to domestic assault last year and was discharged without conviction. Irish club Connacht, with whom he'd signed a two-year deal, weren't so forgiving, immediately tearing up the contract.

Never mind. New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Crusaders were happy to have Reece and here we are.

The phrase 'better people make better All Blacks' has been part of the myth-making around the team. It might be trite, but you get the idea.

All Blacks should be held to a higher standard than provincial or Super Rugby players. They are the best of the best and have a legacy and brand to maintain.

If Reece were to gain national selection then, as happened with cricketer Scott Kuggeleijn this summer, the condemnation would be swift. NZR and the All Blacks need to think very carefully about whether Reece is worth the trouble he might bring.

Some will say he's faced the court system and should be free to play at whatever level he can ascend to. It's a nice sentiment, but probably a little naive nowadays.

Any selection would be accompanied by details of the 1 July incident in which Reece's girlfriend suffered facial injuries and bruising to the left side of her waist and knee, outside a Hamilton night spot.

As fast as Reece is, those are facts he's never going to outrun.

A fair bit of guesswork

The only thing worse than scrums is... scrum penalties.

Referees might blow their whistles with conviction and offer stern lectures to frontrowers about the illegalities they're committing, but we all know they're guessing.

There's hardly ever been a referee who knew anything about scrummaging and, thankfully, most just settled for a re-set and a plea to the props' better nature.

Worryingly, referees are now penalising dominant scrums and making all sorts of assertions about who's pushing square and what their intentions are.

It's all nonsense and a game of consequence, such as a Super Rugby or world cup final, risks being decided on a referee's hunch.

What did we learn?

Round 11 didn't tell us much about the New Zealand sides we didn't already know.

Scrum penalties helped the Lions stay closer to the Crusaders than pure ability suggests they should have, on Friday. The Crusaders eventually adapted to referee Paul Williams and kicked away to a comfortable 36-10 win.

Jordie Barrett.

Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett was a standout performer in week 11. Photo: Photosport

In Tokyo, the poor old Sunwolves really did look a battered and bruised lot. Brave against the Hurricanes the week before, their resistance was so scant in this game it was hard to give the Highlanders much credit for the 52-0 win.

Likewise in Wellington, where the Chiefs did their best but were no match for the Hurricanes. Injuries meant the Chiefs put out a side below real Super Rugby standard, leading to the inevitable 47-19 result.

Team of the week

The Crusaders just get better and better.

During their 2017 and 2018 title-winning seasons, they tended to absorb a lot. They were happy to give the opposition the ball and almost do a Muhammad Ali-style rope-a-dope routine on them. You wear yourself out, hammering away at our line, and we'll wait to score from your inevitable mistake.

The Crusaders' defence remains formidable, but it's their ability to create gaps on attack that's really caught the eye this season. Whether it's spotting mismatches, running terrific lines or using the ball to beat the man, the Crusaders are just so adept at opening defences up.

Most teams try similar, but none execute under pressure quite the way the Crusaders can.

A quick word on Ardie Savea

Relentless. Irresistible. Fearless. Maybe even peerless. You can take your pick.

Whichever word you use to describe the Hurricanes' flanker's form in 2019, there's no doubt it's been impressive.

All Blacks bolter-watch

Luke Jacobson has been one of this season's quiet achievers. Other blindside flankers generate more headlines and have featured in more debates about who'll wear the All Blacks' No.6 jumper this year, but it's arguable whether any have actually played better than Jacobson.

In a struggling Chiefs team he's performed to a consistently high standard.

Week 11 NZ Form XV

15 - Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes)

14 - Sevu Reece (Crusaders)

13 - Braydon Ennor (Crusaders)

12 - Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)

11 - George Bridge (Crusaders)

10 - Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)

9 - TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)

8 - Kieran Read (Crusaders)

7 - Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

6 - Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes)

5 - Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)

4 - Tom Franklin (Highlanders)

3 - Michael Alaalatoa (Crusaders)

2 - Liam Coltman (Highlanders)

1 - Joe Moody (Crusaders)

*Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.