Another rollercoaster round for Australian rugby, but we've picked the 15 Australian standouts from round three.
1. Ben Alexander
The Brumbies scrum was once again a weapon against the Force and Ben Alexander’s start at loosehead was a major part of that. The Brumbies front rowers have been among the best of the Aussies early in the year and they proved that again on Friday night.
2. Tolu Latu
Latu continued his strong defensive form on the weekend, finishing with 15 tackles and a turnover against the Sharks. In what loomed as a tight competition for hooking spots in NSW, Latu seems to have sewn things up early on.
3. Allan Alaalatoa
Alaalatoa is managing fine without great mate Scott Sio packing down ahead of, or alongside him. The 22-year-old has been the only prop consistently in the starting Brumbies lineup so far this season and has been earning every pick. A positive sign for the Brumbies and the Wallabies this season.
4. Matt Philip
Philip has had some big shoes to fill, coming into the Force’s starting second row with Adam Coleman injured, but the 23-year-old has looked the goods. The Force lineout stood up against the Brumbies on Friday night and aside from his locking partner’s late brain fade, Philip and Ross Haylett-Petty showed positive signs.
5. Sam Carter
Carter doesn’t get many plaudits but he is leading the way as the Brumbies captain when it comes to grunt work. Was leading the competition in tackles before round three and added another 10 to his tally against the Force. In a season where the Brumbies tagged themselves as underdogs, Carter is setting the tone by doing the little things right.
6. Hendrik Tui
Tui was relegated to the bench for the opening two rounds but made the most of his recall into the starting side against the Crusaders. The Japanese international finished with eight tackles and two turnovers, leading the way for the Reds in tight.
7. Chris Alcock
Alcock’s fresh start has been all roses so far, with the Brumbies flanker making waves at the breakdown. The 28-year-old finished with 15 tackles, at a perfect strike rate, as well as two turnovers against his former Force teammates in their tight win.
8. Scott Higginbotham
Scott Higginbotham has barely put a foot wrong since the Super Rugby season began in earnest. The returning Queensland Red was again one of his team’s standouts in a gutting loss to the Crusaders. Higginbotham went close to scoring a superb individual try late in the piece, a sign of his attacking talents, which are a handy asset for the Reds. Force’s Richard Hardwick was another standout at the back of the scrum, with his defensive contribution key for his side.
9. Ryan Louwrens
Louwrens has been the surprise packet of the Australian franchises so far, the standout of the halfbacks to this point. Clean and efficient delivery set the Force up well in attack and he is quickly becoming one of his side’s most consistent players.
10. Wharenui Hawera
He lost his kicking boots on the weekend but Wharenui Hawera has found his feet in the Brumbies lineup, looking settled as ever in the playmaking spot. Scored his first Super Rugby try against the Force and steered the home side well for much of the game. If he continues in this vein, some Kiwi sides might just regret overlooking him.
11. James Dargaville
Dargaville took another step in the right direction last weekend and he’s looking more dangerous every week. Though there were no sneaky lineout throws, he did finish with 64 run metres and beat three defenders along the way, sparking some Brumbies attack.
12. Kyle Godwin
Scored the match-sealing try against his old team, capping off his best game of 2017. Godwin looked solid in attack and showed off more of his weapons against the Force. Made an impact in defence as well, making seven tackles.
13. Israel Folau
Folau had his best game of the year in Durban, providing one of the only positives in a 37-14 loss to the Sharks. Finishing with two tries and 130 run metres, Folau was a force in attack, showing the quality that has come to be expected of the 27-year-old. An ominous sign for the Brumbies ahead of a crucial derby clash. A flip of the coin between he and Samu Kerevi for this spot.
14. Izaia Perese
He was handed a Super Rugby start and the newest ‘Izzy’ handled it with ease. Finished with the second-most run metres of any Queensland player, behind Kerevi, and created plenty of chances in attack. A highly-rated youngster, Perese is certainly living up to his billing at this stage.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Haylett-Petty and his opposite number, Aidan Toua, were both influential in last weekend’s Australian derby. The Force fullback made an impact at critical moments for his side and took over the captaincy duties in the back end of the game. The 27-year-old has started the season off in strong fashion.