Team of the week: British and Irish Lions dominate
By Louise Warr
Last Updated: 03/07/17 1:00pm
The standout performers from the British and Irish Lions team join forces with the best from Super Rugby in this week's team of the week.
Seven British and Irish Lions players make our XV after their stunning comeback win over New Zealand in the second Test, which sets up a mouth-watering series decider in Auckland on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
There is a trio of South African hat-trick heroes in the back three on a high-scoring weekend of Super Rugby action, while a USA star also makes the cut after the Eagles clinched their place at the 2019 World Cup.
15. Warrick Gelant (Bulls)
Gelant crossed for a hat-trick as the Bulls claimed a 30-17 win over the Sharks on Friday.
The win was a significant one for the Pretoria-based side: it was their first away victory of the season and fourth from their 13 Super Rugby contests this campaign.
Two tries from Gelant and another from Nick de Jager helped the Bulls to a 17-10 lead, while the full-back added his third try after the break when he capitalised on a great angle from Jan Serfontein to race over.
14. Ruan Combrinck (Lions)
Combrinck, another hat-trick hero, was the star man for the Lions as they roared to a 94-7 victory over the Sunwolves on Saturday.
The 87-point margin was the biggest in the tournament for 10 years and the Lions fell just short of the all-time Super Rugby record for the biggest win - the Bulls' won by 89 points when they won 92-3 against Queensland Reds in 2007.
Combrinck made four line breaks and beat eight defenders as he racked up 160 metres from nine carries. His third try came via an interception after the hooter as he signed off in style.
13. Jonathan Davies (British and Irish Lions)
The Wales centre has been a model of consistency on the Lions tour and produced another fine effort in Saturday's comeback win in Wellington.
One fine break almost saw Davies scuttle home and he was the leading ball carrier in the backline with nine, with only Anthony Watson making more metres.
Space was at a premium at a wet Westpac Stadium but Davies' direct running caused problems for the All Blacks' defence, while he also threw some slick offloads and kicked to good effect.
12. Owen Farrell (British and Irish Lions)
Farrell displayed nerves of steel as he kicked the winning penalty with two minutes remaining in Wellington.
The Saracen finished with a 14-point haul and combined beautifully with Johnny Sexton in what was another imperious showing.
Jan Serfontein also impressed for the Bulls in their win at the Sharks, making a searing break to tee up Warrick Gelant for his third try.
11. Cheslin Kolbe (Stormers)
Kolbe completes a back three of hat-trick heroes as the Stormers beat the Cheetahs 40-34 in a thrilling encounter in Bloemfontein.
The 23-year-old made two line breaks and beat five defenders as he finished with 76 metres from six carries.
Kolbe also kicked four conversions after he took over the kicking duties from regular kicker SP Marais, who left the field early in the first half.
10. AJ MacGinty (USA Eagles)
Johnny Sexton justified his promotion to the starting line-up in Wellington but he is ousted by another Irish-born fly-half.
MacGinty starred for USA as they booked their place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a 52-16 second-leg victory over Canada.
The Sale Sharks playmaker got the hosts up and running early doors when his break sent team-mate Cam Dolan over for the opening score while he also contributed with the boot, slotting six out of eight conversions.
9. Conor Murray (British and Irish Lions)
Murray became the first northern hemisphere player to score four Test tries against New Zealand and that capped another outstanding performance from the Irishman in a Lions shirt.
Murray ran the game expertly and stormed through a gap to touch down with 11 minutes remaining, before Owen Farrell booted the match-levelling conversion.
Special mention to Tonga scrum-half Sonatane Takulua, who stole the show in Samoa's Pacific Nations Cup win over Samoa. The Newcastle Falcon finished with a 20-point haul courtesy of a try, three conversions and a trio of penalties, and made 109 metres from 16 carries.
1. Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Du Toit was one of few positives in a disappointing Sharks performance against the Bulls on Friday night.
The loosehead prop barged over for a try on 17 minutes to give the Sharks a short-lived lead and formed part of a solid scrum that was 100 per cent on their own put-in.
Du Toit also worked hard in the loose, making nine tackles and seven carries before departing on the hour mark.
2. Jamie George (British and Irish Lions)
A man used to a supporting role for his England behind captain Dylan Hartley, George has shown he is more than capable of having an impact on a game from the start.
While there were a couple of lineout blips - one overthrown and another not straight - George was a rock in defence, putting in seven tackles and stole the show in attack when his break sent Conor Murray over for the all-important score.
He has also provided a cool head during the heat of the battle, pulling a fiery Kyle Sinckler away from confrontation as the Lions were awarded the match-winning penalty.
A notable mention must go to USA Eagles' Joe Taufete'e. The hooker was named on the bench for their winner-takes-all clash with Canada but that didn't stop him scoring two tries.
3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)
It was far from Mako Vunipola's finest moment in a Lions shirt, and a lot of that had to do with the man he faced in Wellington.
Franks gave Vunipola a torrid time at the scrum and got under the skin of the Saracens man, leading to two moments of madness that could have cost his side the victory.
4. Maro Itoje (British and Irish Lions)
While it was not a perfect performance from the Lions lock - he dropped his first pass and conceded some silly penalties- the statistics show Itoje made nine carries and 14 tackles, more than any other Lions player.
He also took three lineouts where he had a monumental battle with Brodie Retallick.
It was a physical and confrontational performance from Itoje that justified his inclusion at the expense of lineout guru George Kruis.
5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
He may well have been on a losing side but it was a performance full of graft from Whitelock.
His presence ensured a much slicker lineout performance from the All Blacks after the cracks showed in the opening Test.
He also stood up for his 14-man side in defence when they needed him most, putting in six tackles - a contribution that made him his side's joint-top performer in that department.
6. Jaco Kriel (Lions)
South Africa's Lions made an incredible 1214 metres in their annihilation of the Sunwolves and Kriel accounted for 116 of those.
The Springboks flanker excelled in attack, scoring two tries as he beat eight defenders and made two line breaks from eight carries.
7. Sean O'Brien (British and Irish Lions)
While the Lions faithful might have been vocal in their support for other members of the pack, O'Brien was an influential figure for his team.
He put a hard shift in defence racking up 12 tackles - a number that only Itoje could beat - while he also made a menace of himself at the breakdown.
However, it was going forward where his work was most noticeable, smashing the All Blacks' line at every opportunity.
The Irishman was the Lions' top ball carrier with nine, making 19 valuable metres in the process, and he will look to replicate that in the series decider after his citing for dangerous play was dismissed.
8. Taulupe Faletau (British and Irish Lions)
Cast your minds back pre-tour as Billy Vunipola withdrew from the touring party with a shoulder injury.
Many wondered who would be able to step up and fill the boots of the England No 8, but Faletau proved a more than capable option for Warren Gatland's side.
The Lions second best tackler with 12 alongside back-row partner O'Brien, Faletau powered through the challenge of Israel Dagg to give the Lions hope on the hour mark, sparking what was to become a famous victory.
An honourable mention must go to USA No 8 Cam Dolan who crossed the line twice in their victory over Canada.