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Tuesday Apr 9, 2024

Rugbydump's Investec Champions Cup team of the week

Big-time players stand up in big-time moments, and our team of the week certainly did that.

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From the fluffy, forgivable rounds of pool action to the cutthroat last-16 knockout round, there can be little arguing that the eight best teams will feature in the quarterfinals.

So, without further ado, here is our Investec Champions Cup last-16 team of the week.

15. James Ramm – Northampton Saints

Northampton’s Australian flyer was everywhere on the weekend as he stepped in for the injured George Furbank. Scoring a try of his own, Ramm also set up a score, had two clean breaks, two turnovers and carried for a whopping 125 meters.

14. Kurt-Lee Arendse – Vodacom Bulls

The Springbok flyer is one of the most irresistible talents in World Rugby who plays anything but like a player who tips the scales at 80kg. Proving his appetite for the physical side of the game once again over the weekend, KLA put in some big hits and won 4 turnovers. Yes, you read that right 4 turnovers. In attack, he was his usual brilliant self as he shredded a plucky Lyon defence and set up one of the tries of the season.

Vodacom Bulls’ world-class coast-to-coast try stuns Lyon

13. Nicolas Depoortère – Bordeaux-Begles

The changing of the guard in the French midfield might be coming sooner than many think, as this generation’s answer to Yannick Jauzion has arrived. At 6’4″ and a shade under 100kg, the 21-year-old Depoortère combines physicality with incredible rugby intelligence and silky smooth skills. Mark our words, Depoortère will become the best outside centre in World Rugby.

12. Damian Willemse – DHL Stormers

Still somehow only 25-years-old, the Springboks Swiss army knife is quite possibly a top-five centre, a top-five fullback and a top-five overall player in world rugby. Dragging his team to within an inch of overturning the reigning champions, Willemse was the standout player in Cape Town and appears to have gone to another level since collecting his second World Cup winners medal. Wherever he ends up playing for the Boks, he will likely be their most influential back going forward.

11. Ollie Sleightholme – Northampton Saints

English Rugby’s latest flyer continues to go from strength to strength and looks set to follow in his father’s footsteps as an international in the coming seasons. Against Munster, he was undeniable as he launched Northampton’s crucial long-range try, which proved to be the turning point in the deadlocked match.

10. Mateo Garcia – Bordeaux-Begles

Mathieu who? Any time a side loses a top-quality international flyhalf, there will be an air of trepidation about whether their game plan will function. Yet for Bordeaux, as they lost French star Mathieu Jalbiert to a knee irritation, a certain former U20 international stepped up. In 21-year-old Mateo Garcia, Bordeaux now has two top-quality playmaking options for the number shirt (soon to be three with Ireland international Joey Carbery on the way). With such depth in every position, Bordeaux are now a genuine threat in club rugby’s biggest tournament.

9. Jamison Gibson-Park – Leinster

Regarded as the number two behind Antoine Dupont as the game’s best scrumhalf for the past few seasons, there is now a hair width between the two. Before you all start shouting blasphemy, hear us out… In general play, there is no denying that Dupont is quite possibly the best player in the world, yet as a scrumhalf, no nine in World Rugby is more influential for their team than JGP. The Kiwi-born Leinster star runs the best support lines in the game and can flip the tempo of a match at a moment’s notice. In this regard, he is the best scrumhalf in the world.

Jamison Gibson-Park scores a scintillating opening half hattrick

8. Gregory Alldritt – La Rochelle

The heartbeat of the defending champions is well and alive at just the right time! Recovering from the devastating disappointment of the Rugby World Cup and a subsequent Six Nations injury, Alldritt is back to his best. Nigh on impossible to stop in close quarters; the powerhouse number eight is the accelerator of the La Rochelle pack as he dictates their tempo and direction from set piece.

7. Alexandre Roumat – Toulouse

One of the less heralded French backrows in recent years, Toulouse star Roumat must be close to pushing Charles Ollivon as the first choice in the blue number 7 shirt. Like his Toulon rival, the 6’6″ Roumat is a line-out maestro and a ball-carrying menace that wins the crucial moments for his team.

6. Tadhg Beirne – Munster

Despite starting in the secondrow on the weekend, the Munster captain was at his rampaging best in a losing cause. Winning three crucial turnovers, making crucial carries when needed, plus a now trademark clean break, Beirne is far and away Munster’s most important player. Given RG Snyman’s inability to get on the pitch for Munster, we will never see what could’ve been the best secondrow combination in club rugby. Alas, his future combinations with the ultra-exciting Thomas Ahern and the uber-talented Edwin Edogbo offer hope to Munster fans that brighter days are ahead.

5. Joe McCarthy – Leinster

From one Irish lock to the next, McCarthy established himself as Ireland’s first-choice tighthead lock during the Six Nations and was in scintilating form over the weekend. Keeping James Ryan out of the starting line-up, McCarthy must now offset the loss of Ryan to injury against Leinster’s biggest rivals La Rochelle. Coming up against the unstoppable force that is Will Skelton will prove to be McCarthy’s biggest challenge to date.

4. Will Skelton – La Rochelle

Still, rugby’s hard man, Skelton, like Alldritt, is back to his best at just the right time for Ronan O’Gara’s team. Despite falling two scores behind away to the Stormers, Skelton and his teammates never looked flustered as they put the squeeze on their hosts. Carrying hard and direct, Skelton was the protagonist for the champion’s comeback.

WATCH: Incredible moment of sportsmanship from Will Skelton

3. Ben Tameifuna – Bordeaux-Begles

An ageless wonder and the only player on this list who can challenge Skelton for power and bulk, the Tongan international laid the foundation for the Bordeaux masterclass on the weekend. Simply obliterating a powerful Sarries pack, Tameifuna was rightly named player of the match and is quite possibly the most important player for a team looking to go further than ever before in European competition.

2. Peato Mauvaka – Toulouse

Back in his happy place with Toulouse, Mauvaka has responded to what was a disappointing Six Nations campaign with a raft of classy performances. Crossing for the opening try on the weekend; the hooker reminded everyone that he is essentially a backrow playing in the front row with his strong carries and exceptional work rate.

1. Louis Penverne – La Rochelle

La Rochelle churns out top-quality props like nobody else in the competition, and the 21-year-old Penverne is the latest one to make his mark in the Champions Cup. Scoring what proved to be a crucial try it would appear as though he is in the process of making the number one shirt his own.

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