At the end of an incredibly busy rugby year, we pick out the star performers from around the globe for the annual Planet Rugby Awards.
At the end of a busy year, we pick out the star performers from around the globe for 2012's Planet Rugby Awards.
Player of the Year: Conrad Smith
Despite not being recognised by the IRB, Conrad 'Snake' Smith is our Player of the Year. With seven tries in Super Rugby and another two in Tests in 2012, Smith has been a force on the scoresheet but it's his all-round contributions that earn him so much praise.
Smith made an assist in all three November Internationals he participated in, finishing with a total of six for the year. In an impressive career, the Hurricanes stalwart is at his peak. When it comes to creativity and vision, he is one of the best in the game.
Newcomer of the year: Eben Etzebeth
Julian Savea might have scored twelve tries in his first nine Tests, but young Stormer Eben Etzebeth gets our vote after a breakthrough year. Hailed as the new Bakkies Botha as much for his physicality on the field as his dubious disciplinary record, the best is yet to come from this bruising lock.
Coach of the Year: Steve Hansen
Hansen has taken over the All Blacks from Graham Henry and in many ways made them better than the side that won the Rugby World Cup last year. From the 60-0 rout of Ireland to not losing a match in the Rugby Championship, Hansen has introduced fresh talent whilst getting the best out of his side.
Six Nations Player of the Year: Leigh Halfpenny
Wales had a whole host of standout performers in the Six Nations this year, but Leigh Halfpenny has been outstanding with the boot all year for Wales, despite a run of seven consecutive losses since their Grand Slam success. His performances surely been sufficient to guarantee him a seat on the plane with the Lions.
Rugby Championship Player of the Year: Kieran Read
The world's best number eight produced one of his best year's in an All Black shirt, skippering the side against Italy but losing out to team-mate Richie McCaw for the NZ Player of the Year award. His man of the match awards speak for themselves.
Super Rugby Player of the Year: Andre Taylor
The young Hurricane was in outstanding form for his side in every game this year. Lethal going forward, Taylor finished as the joint top try scorer along with Bjorn Basson in an outstanding year.
Heineken Cup Player of the Year (2011-2012): Jonathan Sexton
A close-run call with his Leinster and Ireland team-mate Cian Healy, but last season saw Sexton in imperious form as he guided Leinster to a third Heineken Cup title in four years. The number one contender for the Lions fly-half shirt.
Try of the year: Joe Pietersen Stormers v Highlanders
A length of the field effort from Stormers full-back Joe Pietersen was our pick for Try of the Year. Fielding a box kick in his own 22, Pietersen flew through tackles from the Highlanders before being brought down on halfway. Pietersen got the ball back two phases later, interchanging with Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon before chipping over the defence to score.
Match of the Year: Blues 34, Chiefs 41, Super Rugby Round 15
Edging out the Heineken Cup semi-final between Clermont and Leinster was this humdinger of a Super Rugby clash. Eight tries, with Chiefs winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma grabbing four including a length of the field stunner for his hat-trick in the second half, made this match stand out above the rest.
Outstanding Performance of the Year: England v New Zealand, December
The performance that nobody expected. After a couple of poor performances against Australia and South Africa, England racked up 38 points against New Zealand thanks to second-half tries from Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi to stop the All Blacks finishing 2012 unbeaten.
Top Try Scorer: Julian Savea
Savea scored more Test tries than anyone else in 2012, with 12 to his name by the end of the year in a fantastic breakthrough year. Add in a further nine scores in Super Rugby, and the young Hurricane has been on fire.
Golden Boot: Ayumu Goromaru (Japan)
If Leigh Halfpenny was second and Dan Carter was third, then who scored the most points in Tests in 2012? The answer is Japan's Goromaru, with the 26-year-old full-back racking up 158 points in nine matches, including six tries.
Hang Up Your Boots Award: Nathan Sharpe
Would he ever retire? Nathan Sharpe's continued postponement of his rugby career made you wonder whether we would see him take on the Lions next year, but it's not to be. After 116 Tests, the Wallaby great has bid farewell.
Quote of the Year: Mike Tindall
Based on the Quotes of the Year we published last week, this understatement from Mike Tindall on his antics at the Rugby World Cup.
“Obviously it wasn't ideal for me to end up as hammered as I was.”
Weight-Watchers Award: Piri Weepu
Everybody knew it, Keven Mealamu even came out and said it, so for appearing a tad out of condition at the beginning of the Super Rugby season Piri Weepu is the lucky recipient of this award.
The “I Showed You All” Award: Mark Hammett
With Ma'a Nonu, Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear and many more departing Wellington during the off-season, nobody gave the Hurricanes a hope in 2012. Yet they had a fantastic Super Rugby season, winning ten of their matches and producing plenty of memorable tries.
MTV Music Award: Saracens
Not keen to be like any other club in the world, Saracens turned to their talented singers Matt Stevens and Kelly Brown to come up with a new tune for the club. The reaction has been lukewarm.