After the first two rounds of The Rugby Championship, the competition is set up perfectly for an incredibly exciting final four weekends. After the first two rounds of the competition, this is the best team from the first two rounds.
Loosehead Prop: Steven Kitshoff
Seems strange to have a player who was not starting for South Africa to be starting in this team, but Steven Kitshoff has been excellent in his two subsititue appearances in the first two rounds. Kitshoff’s strong scrummaging has been a mainstay for the entire tournament.
Particularly in the first round, Kitshoff showed why he Is one of the best props in the world, excellent in open play while still dominating the scrum. He continues to show just how scary the Springboks Bomb Squad is.
Hooker: Malcolm Marx
There was a lot of pressure put on Malcolm Marx ahead of the first game of the tournament as he was starting in his 50th appearance for the Springboks, having usually come off the bench. But Marx put in a brilliant, man of the match performance. The performance included a whopping five turnovers as well as eight carriers and six tackles.
Despite South Africa’s loss in week two, Marx put in another brilliant performance after he came on for Joseph Dweba in just the 29th minute. Marx continues to look like one of the best players in the world and it shows the incredible depth of South Africa that he probably does not start if everyone is healthy.
Tighthead Prop: Tyrel Lomax
New Zealand really struggled in the first game in the scrum, even when they brought on the replacements. But with Lomax starting, the scrum looked a lot more solid in the second game and it allowed New Zealand to launch their attack which scored four tries in the second game.
Despite being born in Australia, Lomax is looking like a very promising young prop for the All Blacks, putting in two powerful performances so far in the Rugby Championship. His performance in the second game gives Lomax a really good shot of holding on to the tighthead spot when everyone is back healthy.
Second Row: Sam Whitelock
Despite playing the full 80 minutes in the first game, Whitelock was not quite at his best. But the second week was a brilliant performance, one of Whitelock’s best in an All Blacks jersey. He returned to his best, stealing and winning lineouts and being a nuisance in the ruck. Whitelock was the teams first option in the lineout and performed excellently.
Whitelock again looked his size in attack, using his massive frame to batter his way through defenders. In defence, seven tackles in week two show how important Whitelock was in defence, even if he was not anywhere near his best in the first week loss.
If New Zealand want to go on and win this tournament, they will need Whitelock to be back at his best as he was in round 2.
Second Row: Tomas Lavanini
One of the names on this list you may not have heard of, Lavanini is quietly one of the most important pieces in this Argentinian side. He does come in with a reputation for some porr discipline, being the most sin-binned player in the history of Argentinian rugby as well as having three red cards in 63 apperances.
But his performances in the first two rounds of the competition have been world class from the Clermont man. Australia could not get their lineout going in the second game because he was always up stealing the ball away.
Despite this, Lavanini did his best work of the tournament on the ground, particularly in that second game where he made eleven tackles and showed a lot of power in the carry. Despite Darcy Swain having the stronger first game, Lavanini was by far the best second row on the field the second time these two met.
Blindside Flanker: Siya Kolisi
The Springboks captain has been near his very best in the first two weeks of the tournament despite seeing his side fall to defeat in the second game. But even in the losing performance, Kolisi was impressive as he made 10 tackles while only missing one against the strong ball carrier of New Zealand.
In that first game, Kolisi was at his best over the ruck, claiming the ball on multiple occasions and just being an overall nuisance at the ruck for New Zealand. Going into double figures both weeks for tackles show exactly the hard working nature of Kolisi and he is a brilliant Springboks captain.
Openside Flanker: Sam Cane
Possibly a little bit lucky to be in this place considering there were calls for him to be dropped after the defeat to South Africa. But I think the critics calling for that are mainly looking at the team’s performance and not at the work that Cane is putting in. Having played well in that first test, Cane produced a brilliant performance in the second.
In the second test, Cane got his side off to the perfect start when he found himself alongside Jordie Barrett on a break. His powerful finish in the corner helped to give the All Blacks a good start, something they have really struggled with in their recent games.
If you are going to criticise his leadership in the first game, Cane deserves the credit for the second as New Zealand were able to cut out the tiny mistakes that had been haunting them, looking much better thanks in part to a proper captains performances from Cane.
Number 8: Pablo Matera
If you were wondering why Bath offered Pablo Matera such a big deal to play his rugby at the Rec next season, those two performances should make it pretty clear why the Los Pumas star is the most sought after free agent this summer. Matera has been excellent in both of Argentina’s games.
In week 1, he had 11 tackles, six carries and a lineout take in a brilliant performance. The second week was even better for Matera as Argentina got the victory they were looking for while again performed well. Matera was again dominant in attack and strong in defence, getting the better of his opposite number Rob Valetini.
Crucial for this Argentinian side, Matera is a world class player who will be a danger man in the games to come.
Scrum Half: Nic White
Jaden Hendrikse performed really well in the absence of Faf de Klerk, but Nic White is one of the few Australians who should be proud of their performance so far in this championship. Australia may not be at their best, but everything they do in attack comes through the play of White.
His first week performance was a big reason for Australia scoring four tries while he was on the field as he makes them tick in attack while his box kicking continues to get Australia out of trouble. In terms of just being an all round annoyance to opposing players, White is exactly what you would want from your scrum half.
If Australia are to pull of an upset against either South Africa or New Zealand, White will be the focal point of their work in attack.
Fly Half: Richie Mo’unga
There is still a huge amount of debate as it who should start at 10 for the All Blacks, but Mo’unga’s second round performance should give him the starting role heading further into the tournament, as well as playing well in his cameo role in the first week.
The All Blacks just looked a lot more in control with Richie at number 10 and he was very accurate with his kicks. With 17 points in the competition already, Mo’unga is a brilliant Fly Half and should be the starter heading forward as he unlocks the backs better than Beauden Barrett can.
Left Wing: Emiliano Boffelli
One of the best wingers in world, Boffelli was a brilliant in both weeks of the tournament, with 34 points already across the first two games of the competition. Even with Argentina losing in week one, Boffelli looked a menace in attack. His work off the boot is absolutelty brilliant.
Australia were completely undone by the high ball in the second round and it was because of the incredible accuracy of Boffelli’s kicks. In attack, Boffelli scored in the second game with a brilliant chase down of a pin point kick from Lucio Cinti, outpacing Marika Koroibete in the process.
Two brilliant personal performances make it impossible for Boffelli not to be included in this team.
Inside Centre: David Havili
New Zealand struggled to get their attack going in the first week against South Africa, but David Havili still looked dangerous whenever he got the ball. There were some calls to drop him heading into the second week of the competition, but a brilliant cross field kick in the first few minutes quickly quietened any worries about his spot.
Havili showed his attacking prowess in that second game. His performance in attack was capped off by a brilliant try which would be the deciding one in the game. Havili may not necessarily be the long term answer at inside centre but he has been very good to start this tournament.
Outside Centre Lukhanyo Am
One of the best players in the world, there are a lot of reasons why Lukhanyo Am is one of the early favourites for World Rugby Player of the Year in 2022. Am is the best centre in the world, contributing constantly on both sides of the ball.
Despite not scoring in the first game, Lukhanyo Am was brilliant in attack in that first game as well as being constantly brilliant in defence. Am is a wonderful player and his combination of speed and power is world class.
That second game was Am finally getting the try he deserved as he embarrassed Caleb Clarke and Will Jordan to finish brilliantly in the corner. It was a great illustration of the attacking brilliance of Am and why he is one of the best players in the world.
Right Wing Juan Imhoff
One of the most consistent and excellent backs in the world, Juan Imhoff got Argentina off to the perfect start in the second game. He was able to take advantage of Australia’s struggles in their backline and it led him to a brilliant score to start off the game.
Argentina were simply brilliant in attack and part of that was because Imhoff again showed why he has such a good try scoring record for Argentina.
Fullback Damian Willemse
If Willemse is not the best fullback in the world then he has to at least be in the top three. Willemse was excellent in both games, particularly in the losing effort. Willemse had a brilliant performance where he set up the Mapimpi try with a brilliant pass.
But Willemse is world class because he is a great athlete who can make the crucial tackle when needed. Incredibly fast in attack, Willemse has a huge boot that can often get South Africa out of a difficult situation.
Unlucky to miss out on starting Gallo was a nightmare in attack, scoring twice against Australia. A scary ball carrier and solid in the scrum.
One of the outstanding players for the All Blacks in both games, Taukei’aho has surely solidified the number 2 shirt for the future with his strong carries.
A huge part of South Africa’s powerful scrum, Malherbe was also brilliant in defence.
The Springboks lock is truly world class and he showed why he is so good in both tests, including being brilliant in the lineout and providing the physicality South Africa need.
Juan Martin Gonzalez
Brilliant in attack and defence, Gonzalez does everything you would want your flanker to do. With a team high 12 tackles in the winning performance, Gonzalez looks likely to be a mainstay of the team for years to come.
Still one of the best players in the world, Savea showed his ball carrying excellence in both games. He is so difficult to stop in attack that pretty much everything good New Zealand do comes through him.
After a difficult season, Pollard looks close to being back to his best, controlling the South African attack as well as nailing all eleven of the kicks he has attempted so far.
Man of the match in the second game, Ioane continue to look like one of the best centres in the world, running for 104 metres and making seven tackles in the victory.