Team of the Week: Premiership, PRO14, Top 14 and Super Rugby standouts combine
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 06/05/19 2:45pm
Find out who makes it into our XV this week as the standouts from the Premiership, PRO14, Top 14 and Super Rugby combine...
Find out who makes our cut and have your say when it comes to the most influential player of the weekend with our vote below...
15. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse)
Toulouse have been utterly sensational for the large majority of this season so far, and this week was no different as they pulverised Pau by the remarkable scoreline of 83-6.
Their Springbok flyer Kolbe was played at full-back, and he ripped the pitch and his opponents completely apart - running 204 metres with ball in hand, beating 16 defenders and scoring two tries - one of which has been doing the rounds and is, hands down, the try of the season.
14. Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara (Benetton)
Italian's Benetton made history over the weekend as they become the first Italian side ever to compete in a PRO14 (and previous formats of the competition) playoff structure, and they very nearly pulled off what would possibly have been the greatest shock in the tournament's history.
They were a joy to watch for large parts up against Munster in their 15-13 PRO14 quarter-final defeat at Thomond Park - a stadium Munster haven't lost at since 2017.
Fijian wing Tavuyara was virtually unplayable as he married his wonderful flamboyance with ball in hand with a power and pace Munster couldn't contain. He scored one magnificent try in the corner, beat six defenders, made three clean breaks and earned 76 metres from 12 carries.
13. Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)
A couple of weeks back, the Sharks conceded 51 points at home to the Jaguares in an embarrassing performance. Yet on Friday, they were seconds from winning at the home of defending champions Crusaders before having to settle for a 21-21 draw.
Central to their battling performance was the defensive display of Springbok centre Am. Up against the likes of Crusaders free-runners Jack Goodhue, George Bridge and Sevu Reece, he let absolutely nothing through down his channel in a performance of real note.
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
Ulster qualified for their first PRO14 semi-final appearance since 2016 on Saturday, as they beat Connacht 21-13 in Belfast.
Centre McCloskey has ended the season in some super form, and when on-song, he is a very difficult player for anybody to deal with.
Over the weekend, he was one of the standouts in victory - he made 13 carries, 52 metres going forward, 11 tackles, won two turnovers, beat three defenders and made two clean breaks.
11. Alex Lewington (Saracens)
The Premiership saw top face second over the weekend as leaders Exeter Chiefs made the trip to face Saracens at the Allianz Arena.
Exeter had made most of the early running and were well on top until the actions of dangerous wing Lewington.
Defending another multi-phase Chiefs attack in the final 10 minutes of the first half, Vincent Koch turned the ball over before Richard Wigglesworth hacked the ball on twice - with it getting caught in the wind both times.
The brightest button on the park was the alert Lewington, who kept concentration to track the ball, regather and sear home for the opening points. The 27-year-old scored the second try of the day too - two minutes into the second period, from which Saracens never looked back, going on to win 38-7.
10. Thomas Ramos (Toulouse)
As mentioned above with Kolbe, Toulouse were incredible over the weekend as they scored a scarcely believable 83 points against Pau.
Playmaker Ramos was responsible for 26 of those points as he scored two tries, and kicked eight conversions. What a team this group of Toulouse youngsters are to watch.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
Quins scrum-half Care was back from injury for the club on Friday, and his impact was keenly felt in a 23-19 win over Leicester Tigers at the Stoop.
The 32-year-old scored a try, made 50 passes, eight carries, three clean breaks and 59 metres in attack. Care will be desperate to try force his way back into the England set-up with the Rugby World Cup looming.
1. Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls)
Bulls prop Gqoboka gains our loosehead shirt this week for a display of real scrummaging power for the Bulls in their 28-21 Super Rugby win over the Waratahs.
Gqoboka was part of a scrum which operated at 100 per cent and forced two penalties, while he also proved a very hard man to put to ground, making 35 metres from seven carries.
2. Folau Fainga (Brumbies)
Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga scored a hat-trick of tries as the home side came from 12 points behind to beat the Blues in Canberra on Saturday.
Almost ridiculously, Fainga'a, who turned 24 on Sunday, is now the competition's top try scorer this season with 10!
3. Ross Kane (Ulster)
When Marty Moore was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, it looked like a massive blow to Ulster's end of season trophy chances.
Up against Connacht on Saturday, who have had one of the most powerful scrums in the PRO14 all season, 24-year-old tighthead Kane was under huge pressure to deliver, but he did and then some.
He made 13 tackles - no one in Ulster colours made more - forced two scrum penalties for his side and earned another crucial decision at the breakdown as the Irish province sealed a semi-final place.
4. Jean Kleyn (Munster)
There was very little to admire about Munster's limp PRO14 quarter-final victory over Benetton on Saturday, but one thing that did stand out was the the supreme work-rate of second row Kleyn.
The South Africa-born lock made an immense 21 tackles - considerably more than any other player from either side. He also contributed 10 carries and two lineout claims in an impressive all-round 80 minute performance.
5. Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders)
The Highlanders played out a hugely-entertaining 31-31 draw with the Chiefs in Super Rugby on Saturday, in a game they really should have won.
One of the most exciting prospects in New Zealand rugby at current though is second row Hemopo - and once again he was in great form.
The 25-year-old made 14 carries, beat five defenders, stole one lineout and earned a further two turnovers. Expect to see him more in Black very soon.
6. Ifereimi Boladau (Army)
The annual Army vs Navy fixture took place at Twickenham on Saturday, live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, and it was the Army who ran out 27-11 winners, largely thanks to back-row Boladau.
Starting in the No 8 shirt, we've shifted him to the blindside in order to get him in after a display Army head coach Wayne Burnard called "absolutely awesome" afterwards.
Boladau scored the first try himself, showing sensational dynamism and power off a cute lineout routine to crash over, while he had heavy carrying impacts ahead of the Army's second and third tries too.
The 32-year-old has represented Fiji on the World Sevens Series and is an absolute wrecking ball of a player. He was the difference as the Navy couldn't stop him.
7. CJ Stander (Munster)
Without the breakdown impact of Stander in the closing stages at Thomond Park on Saturday, Munster's season would be over by now - and as such we've shifted him to the openside (as Munster did once Arno Botha was introduced) to get him in.
Twice in the final 15 minutes he jackaled over the ball to win a breakdown penalty, the second of which (once it had been brought forward 10 metres for Benetton kicking the ball away) allowed JJ Hanrahan to kick the winning penalty from 50 metres out with three minutes left.
Elsewhere in the game, the back-row made 17 carries - the most of anyone - and 15 tackles.
8. Marcell Coetzee (Ulster)
What a season Coetzee has enjoyed with Ulster. If any one player has been mostly responsible for their brilliant form - just one defeat in the PRO14 since early January - then it is arguably the Springbok No 8.
The 24-year-old is an absolutely phenomenal ball-carrier, and was so again in Belfast on Saturday against Connacht: he put his hand up for 24 carries - 10 more than any other player. He also scored the match-clinching try.
Now over his serious knee injuries, Coetzee has also clearly developed into a leader for this Ulster side as they target PRO14 silverware.