Super Rugby: Week 16 breakdown

11:23 am on 5 June 2019

Opinion - The Chiefs might not finish 2019 as Super Rugby champions but they won a lot of hearts during week 16 of the Super Rugby season.

Brad Weber

Chiefs halfback Brad Weber. Photo: Photosport

So much for that

Remember when Colin Cooper was being given the lame duck treatment? Too old and out of touch, the Chiefs coach was said to be on borrowed time just a week or two into the season. Where are all those good judges now?

Teams have no problem not playing for their coach. They'll fold the tent up quick smart if they think it'll get an unpopular bloke the sack, so you defy anyone to look at Saturday's 40-27 win over the Crusaders and say the Chiefs aren't a united side who aren't playing for their coach.

Despite a crippling injury toll - and a modest roster to start with - the Chiefs have generally given their best this season.

That's all you can expect from a team.

Punch drunk

You felt for the Crusaders in Suva. Up 20-0 in a matter of minutes, the linebreaks appeared to come at will.

When fatigue set in, and the Chiefs inevitably got into the game and earned a better share of possession, the Crusaders weren't able to rediscover their early intensity.

Sometimes things just come a too easily.

So where are we at?

It seemed safe to award the Crusaders the 2019 title after just two weeks of the season. Winners in 2017 and 2018, they looked even better this year.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.

Does Scott Roberston have reason to be worried as his Crusaders side falters towards the end of the season? Photo: Photosport

But that early season excellence has begun to wane a little and the things the Crusaders always pride themselves on - set-piece dominance and defence - aren't as reliable as they have been. They remain the best team in the competition, but need to take stock.

The kind of loose, ill-disciplined footy they've played of late won't see them realise their immense potential.

Meanwhile in Durban

After losing to the Jaguares at home, the Hurricanes had to respond.

Their 30-17 win over the Sharks wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was full of the kind of substance the Hurricanes hadn't mustered in their previous outing.

Dane Coles's return to fitness was timely, while Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara remain other examples for the other Hurricanes to follow.

Teams look to bully the Hurricanes, and the Sharks were no exception, but this time the tactic didn't work.

Just on Perenara

The All Blacks and Hurricanes halfback has a lot to say for himself. Unlike a few other players, though, Perenara's not all mouth.

He is 100 percent invested in the result and in making sure his team wins and you have to admire him for it. Blues stars Akira and Rieko Ioane, for instance, are happy to mouth at opponents on the few occasions they do anything of note, but they're not actually helping their team win.

Unlike Perenara.

As Blues coach Leon MacDonald probably knows

The Blues really ought to have beaten the Bulls on Friday. At home, against modest opposition and with referee Mike Fraser giving them the rub of the green, the Blues' 22-22 draw was a disappointment.

Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu.

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu reacts to his side's draw against the Bulls. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

You feel for first five-eighth Harry Plummer. So accurate and impressive as Auckland's dominant pack paved the way to last year's Mitre 10 Cup title, the 20-year-old has had a few wobbles with the Blues.

But he's young and has talent and you admire the fact he wants to step up and attempt potentially game-winning kicks at goal. This year he's been unsuccessful, but you imagine he'll benefit from this experience.

So too will MacDonald. The darling of television directors, for his reactions in the coach's box, he'll likely temper those as time goes on.

Team of the week

Got to be those Chiefs. Unheralded types such as Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tyler Ardron and Jesse Parete really impressed in Suva and you can't fault the culture Colin Cooper appears to have built within the team.

Mind you, team-mates couldn't help but feel inspired when they see the way Sam Cane has come back from last year's frightening neck fracture.

All Blacks bolter-watch

New Zealand has a surfeit of quality back-three players, including the Chiefs' Solomon Alaimalo.

Maybe not as consistently good in 2019 as he was last year, the St Bede's College old boy was almost the best player on Suva's ANZ Stadium. Great under the high ball and elusive with ball in hand, Alaimalo provided an illustration of New Zealand's enviable depth among the outside backs.

Week 16 NZ Form XV

15 - Solomon Alaimalo (Chiefs)

14 - Wes Goosen (Hurricanes)

13 - Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)

12 - Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)

11 - Braydon Ennor (Crusaders)

10 - Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)

9 - Brad Weber (Chiefs)

8 - Pita Gus Sowakula (Chiefs)

7 - Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

6 - Whetu Douglas (Crusaders)

5 - Tyler Ardron (Chiefs)

4 - Jesse Parete (Chiefs)

3 - Michael Alaalatoa (Crusaders)

2 - Samisoni Taukei'aho (Chiefs)

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.

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