With the dust having settled on Round One of Super Rugby, we have gone through the action to pick out the best players from the weekend.
The Rebels lead the way with five nominations following a superb victory over the Brumbies in Canberra, while defending champions Crusaders got off to a good start and they have four representatives in the XV.
15 Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes): A big start for a big year for the 22-year-old, who will be looking to become first choice full-back for the national team ahead of the World Cup. The All Blacks have a plethora of options in the back three and Barrett is one of those who will be in the equation, but Steve Hansen preferred Damian McKenzie in the 2018 November series. This was therefore the ideal opening to the campaign for the Hurricanes man, who was good off the tee and also ran for 62 metres against the Waratahs, edging out opposite number Israel Folau.
14 Jack Maddocks (Rebels): Enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2018 and has also started 2019 excellently following a superb display against the Brumbies. Reads the game very well and is an excellent finisher, which he showed for his second try after he gathered Billy Meakes’ cross-field kick and touched down all in one movement. Elsewhere, the Crusaders’ Manasa Mataele took his tries well but Maddocks’ all-round game takes the position.
13 Braydon Ennor (Crusaders): New Zealand rugby has unearthed another star if this performance is anything to go by. Those who watched Ennor at the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship will know about his talent, but it is another thing transitioning into Super Rugby and the youngster has done it seamlessly. Did well whenever given the opportunity last season and impressed in the opening round, making 80 metres with three clean breaks and eight defenders beaten. As a result, the centre edged out the much more experienced South African duo of Lukhanyo Am (Sharks) and Jesse Kriel (Bulls)
12 Billy Meakes (Rebels): Links play nicely in the Australian outfit’s backline and rarely plays poorly as Saturday’s performance showed. Created the decisive try for Maddocks with a deft cross-field kick but also carried well and helped the Rebels get on the front foot in the second period. Did his work in defence too, making seven tackles, as he takes his place in the XV ahead of the Chiefs’ Anton Lienert-Brown, who displayed a couple of classy touches.
11 Rosko Specman (Bulls): Some debut from the former South African Sevens flyer, who touched down twice in an impressive display. Both tries were exceptional and came in the opening quarter as he set the tone for an excellent display by the Bulls. Not too many wingers came close to his effort but George Bridge was once again superb for the Crusaders and will surely be in contention for a World Cup place providing he stays injury free.
10 Quade Cooper (Rebels): An outstanding return to Super Rugby from the 70-times capped Wallaby after being discarded by Reds boss Brad Thorn at the start of last season. To an extent Cooper underplayed his hand, with the fly-half refraining from using many of his party tricks, but it was what made him so effective. The Rebels man controlled the game nicely, showed good variety in his passing and, when the opportunity was on, exploited the space. On this form, the 30-year-old is comfortably the best pivot in Australia, with him edging Handre Pollard (Bulls) and Josh Ioane (Highlanders) out of this XV.
9 Will Genia (Rebels): Three assists for the scrum-half tells the story with the 31-year-old a vital part of their victory over the Brumbies. After a first half which saw the teams trade blows, Genia, alongside Cooper, took control of the encounter and prevented the hosts from getting on the front foot. Meanwhile, Embrose Papier was sharp in the Bulls’ triumph over the Stormers, but the talented Australian international was in outstanding form on Friday.
8 Akira Ioane (Blues): This was a tough decision as Duane Vermeulen was one of the Bulls' standout players in their demolition of the Stormers in Pretoria but we've gone with Ioane, who was arguably the Blues' best player in their narrow defeat to the Crusaders in Auckland. He was brilliant on attack and finished with 100 metres gained from 20 carries with two clean breaks and four defenders beaten.
7 Marnus Schoeman (Lions): One of the standout performances of the weekend, Schoeman hit the ground running in a memorable win for the Lions over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Although he had little attacking opportunities, he made them count when the ball came his way and was rewarded with a hat-trick of tries for his efforts. Also shone on defence with 11 tackles and made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. The Crusaders' Matt Todd and Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes also impressed.
6 Jordan Taufua (Crusaders): Pablo Matera and Tyler Paul caught the eye for the Jaguares and Sharks respectively but Taufua gets the nod after delivering a superb all-round effort in the nine-time champions' hard-fought win over the Blues at Eden Park. The Leicester Tigers-bound flanker was a willing ball carrier and put his body on the line defensively with eight hits.
5 Matt Philip (Rebels): Took the fight to the Brumbies and came out on top as the best lock on display in the Rebels' victory in Canberra. Philip did his bit in the lineouts, but also stood out with ball in hand gaining 20 metres from seven runs with two clean breaks and a defender beaten. Also shone on defence with 11 tackles made. The Bulls' Lood de Jager and Marvin Orie of the Lions were next best.
4 Scott Barrett (Crusaders): The All Black second-row was in the thick of the action in his side's narrow away triumph over the Blues. Barrett was at the forefront of his side's forward effort, especially on defence which played a big part in the victory, and eventually made 18 tackles. Also did well in the lineouts and comes in ahead of Pari Pari Parkinson of the Highlanders.
3 Tyler Lomax (Highlanders): The Highlanders forwards deserve plenty of credit for their part in a superb fightback against the Chiefs in Hamilton and Lomax was one of their best players with a superb all-round effort. The All Blacks prop stood up well in the scrums but also impressed on attack and gained 28 metres from three runs which included two clean breaks, one defender beaten and an offload. Lomax made an impact on defence too with eight hits and beats out the Bulls' Trevor Nyakane.
2 Akker van der Merwe (Sharks): The Springbok hooker was one of his side's stars in their win over the Sunwolves in Singapore and led the way in the try-scoring stakes after crossing the whitewash on two occasions. Van der Merwe gained 20 metres on attack from five runs and also managed an offload. He also made six tackles on defence and is preferred to Liam Coltman of the Highlanders.
1 Joe Moody (Crusaders): Came to the fore with a strong performance in a closely fought battle against the Blues in Auckland. As usual, Moody stood up well in the scrums but also did his bit as a ball carrier and cleaned out the rucks like a man possessed. Made his biggest impact on defence, however, with a superb 16 tackles made during a 53-minute spell on the field.