ESPNscrum Super Rugby Team of the Season
July 23, 2013
With the Super Rugby regular season having concluded, I've gone over all my Team of the Week selections for ESPNscrum to put together a definitive team of the season. Team of the Season selection was based on the number of TotW selections, with Notable Mentions used as a tie-breaker, if need be, though in the end there were clear winners in just about all positions. It's a strong side, and players have been rewarded for their consistency across the season. As always, you can have your say on the picks in the comments below, or with using the #ScrumFive and #Top15 hashtags to @BMcSport on Twitter.
Ben Smith has been strong all season © Getty Images
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Hardly surprising if anyone's been keeping track of selections over the past month, especially. In truth, Smith has been pretty consistent all year, and his All Blacks selection in June was well deserved. He wins #Top15 selection on the strength of a superb second half of the season, which coincided with the Highlanders finally showing the potential most of us had assumed would be there all season.
14. Cam Crawford (Waratahs)
This was a surprise selection, for mine, and he won #Top15 selection via a brilliant start to his Waratahs career in the middle part of the season. Whereas the left wing supplied several top-quality candidates, Crawford was challenged on the right wing only by Frank Halai from the Blues, who trailed by only one TotW selection.
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)
"AAC" wasn't so much of a surprise, as he was one of the most selected players over the course of the year. A just reward for his best Super Rugby season in many a year, one in which he finally played just one position for the year. He developed a great combination with #Top15 counterpart Cam Crawford down the right.
12. Jean de Villiers (Stormers)
As an indication of just how good a player de Villiers remains, he played inside centre only a few times this season yet dominated on each occasion. He won several Notable Mentions through the year at outside centre, too, which indicates how quickly and easily he can adapt his game as required. Still a wonderful sight going at full tilt in clear air.
11. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) *
The asterisk selection. Our rules for TotW selection all year included that we wouldn't name players out of position just to accommodate others; but Willie le Roux was always going to cause us trouble. "Spiders", as I like to call him, because he runs through defences like he's covered in them, won TotW selections this year on both wings; but he also spends considerable time at first receiver, packs into scrums on the blindside flank, and even pops up in lineouts. Julian Savea can consider himself unlucky, but Spiders couldn't be ignored.
Dan Carter might just have been player of the season © Getty Images
10. Dan Carter (Crusaders)
The most selected and notably mentioned player of the season, and he finished the season with a wetter sail than even the Highlanders. He had a superb back half of the season - he was in two TotWs and claimed a Notable Mention in the final three rounds alone - and he was a major factor in the Crusaders storming into favouritism to add an eighth Super Rugby title to their bulging trophy cabinet in Christchurch. If we gave out a Player of the Year award, he'd win that, too.
9. Will Genia (Reds)
Scrum-half was another position with no clear standout player, highlighted by the fact I picked a different player every week for the final eight rounds. Genia held on to win selection largely through his strong mid-season form for Queensland Reds, for whom he led for the front while James Horwill was still finding his feet. Tailed off toward the end of the season, but he's still one of the best No.9s in world rugby - if not the best.
8. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
If Willie le Roux was the asterisk selection, No.8 was the position that caused most headaches. If the season went for another month, I'd have been writing about Kieran Read for sure; but in the end, there was nothing separating Mowen and Scott Higginbotham, who both finished with the same number of TotW selections for the year. A sub-committee was formed to adjudicate, deciding that Mowen kept to a high level while Higginbotham was ruled out for the season through injury - emerging from the British & Irish Lions series as one of the Wallabies' best forwards.
7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
Perhaps the biggest surprise #Top15 selection, among a field that featured George Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Braid, Deon Fourie and Marcell Coetzee. But Hooper strung together a number of TotW selections and Notable Mentions coming into the June International period, and that was enough for him to hold on in a well-contested race.
6. Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs)
This was no surprise selection. Some players had a really strong few weeks, but Labuschagne was consistent all season - earning TotW selections and Notable Mentions at numerous points throughout. He finished the season as the top tackler in the competition, and he was another player to earn a well-deserved International call-up in June.
Lappies Labuschagne enjoyed a season to celebrate © Getty Images
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
I've already written in previous weeks that Whitelock and Brodie Retallick they might be the next great All Blacks lock pairing, and it was fitting that they would be neck-and-neck all season for the No.5 position. Whitelock found extra devastation in his game in the final month, with his barnstorming running, and it was fitting that Whitelock's TotW selection over Retallick from the Chiefs-Crusaders game in the penultimate round of the season would be the deciding factor.
4. Hugh Pyle (Rebels)
A well-earned selection for a really consistent season from the big Melbourne Rebels forward, and there can be no doubt that his Wallabies debut is closer than ever even though the Lions series might have been a bit much too early,. Pyle beat some handy names along the way, including the likes of Brad Thorn and the underrated Craig Clarke, a mark of just how good a season he's had.
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)
The All Blacks tight-head produced a very solid season, and he figured in a bit of race with his protege, Ben Tameifuna, for a good part of the season; but consecutive TotW selections in the final two rounds of the season, including a win over his Hurricanes brother, Ben, in the final round, saw him home.
Adriaan Strauss might be a Springboks captain in waiting © Getty Images
2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
Another tough field with no real standout player, and with a large number of hookers earning a single TotW selection across the season. Heath Tessman from Western Force was good in the middle of the year, and Andrew Hore had a good second half of the season for the Highlanders, but the Cheetahs captain won out having earned selections at different points of a pretty consistent season. An excellent leader of the young Cheetahs side, to the point that he's being spoken of as a future Springboks captain.
1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs)
Like openside flanker, loose-head prop had a red-hot field to select from, with Dean Greyling, Benn Robinson, Scott Sio, Jamie McIntosh, Ben Franks, and Tony Woodcock featuring at different points. Big Coenie had a strong middle part of the season, as the Cheetahs first announced themselves as finals series contenders, and he produced blockbusting runs all season to leave a trail of stunned defenders in his wake. Just as importantly, he was the #Top15 prop scoring tries, tallying two for the season.
Notable mentions: Julian Savea (Hurricanes winger), Kyle Godwin (Western Force inside centre), Scott Higginbotham (Rebels No.8), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs lock), Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs tighthead).
Thanks to everyone who left comments online and on Twitter over the season, it's always great to hear from rugby fans giving thoughts on who starred each week.
Julian Savea was one of the players most unlucky to miss selection. © Getty Images
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