Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we thought it was only right to praise the stars of the Super Rugby weekend.
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we thought it was only right to hand out praise to the stars of the Super Rugby round.
Without further ado, here comes our offering – be sure to send in your own 15-1 team selections.
15 Israel Dagg (Crusaders) – A relatively quiet weekend for all the full-backs on show but Dagg was the standout candidate for the 15 jersey thanks to gaining 82 metres with ball in hand. It was his dash for the whitewash early on – after joining the line at pace – that resulted in the five metre scrum that set up the Crusaders' first try.
14 Tom Marshall (Crusaders) – The Chiefs have got themselves a real talent for 2014. Marshall moves on at the end of the season and is set to do so in fine form. His knack of popping up in midfield and regularly making ground has caused defences problems all year and despite teams such as the Reds knowing this, they have been unable to stop him. Over 100 metres in the bank for this – whisper it quietly – future All Black.
13 Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) – We simply can't leave out the guy who scored two tries, made two clean line breaks, beat three defenders and produced five offloads. Crotty ran a perfect angle and then had the power to bust through a couple of tackles on his way to the line for his first score, before finishing off a break from Dan Carter for his second after the interval. The Crusaders midfield copped a bit of flak in the early season but Crotty has been outstanding in the past few games.
12 Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) – Despite a few wobbles from the kicking tee, Lealiifano recovered and his twelve points ultimately proved vital in the Brumbies booking their ticket to Pretoria. While the hosts conceded two tries, defensively Lealiifano did not miss a tackle and will look to continue his good form at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.
11 Henry Speight (Brumbies) – Had an off-night in their final regular-season game but bounced back with intent against the Cheetahs. He was a regular running option for the hosts and had final passes gone to hand, might have got over the line. Despite the Brumbies not scoring, Speight got the weekend best of seven defenders beaten.
10 Dan Carter (Crusaders) – With a personal haul of 20 points, including a well-taken try, DC reminded us all – once again – why he is the best 10 in world rugby, cleverly varying play and creating two more tries. It certainly helps to play behind an advancing pack, but Carter made the most of every opportunity, beating more defenders than any other player at AMI Stadium on Saturday.
9 Nic White (Brumbies) – Had he not returned then we don't think the Brumbies would have won their play-off. White's touch-finding was again outstanding while he managed his pack well, adding calmness that ultimately helped the Australians hold on for the win. A mention for Andy Ellis.
8 Philip van der Walt (Cheetahs) – Despite going down with what looked like a serious knee injury in the first minute, Van der Walt recovered to put in a superb performance in Canberra. Up against one of the best eights in the competition in Ben Mowen, the South African carried tirelessly and was another Cheetah unlucky to be on the losing side.
7 Matt Todd (Crusaders) – Headlines in the build-up to the play-offs were about Richie McCaw but Todd Blackadder could easily have left the All Blacks skipper on the bench for all 80 minutes – he really wasn't needed. Beyond his excellent work at the breakdown, Todd's linking role in creating Tom Marshall's try was a perfect example of how the Crusaders always made sure runners had options.
6 George Whitelock (Crusaders) – Rarely given the personal praise he deserves despite consistently performing well in the red and black jersey. Whitelock was yet again strong and unlucky to be kept off the score sheet after being held up over the line. A major cog in a strong Crusaders pack that allowed their dangerous backline to cut loose against the Reds.
5 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) – The Crusaders lock was a shining example of what is expected of a modern second-row. Faultless in the line-outs, Whitelock also made a telling contribution with ball in hand, beating three defenders, making a clean line break and producing an offload. Chuck in thirteen tackles and you have an outstanding all-round effort.
4 Lood de Jager (Cheetahs) – This 20-year-old lock is another off the South African second-row conveyor belt and on Sunday he firmly announced himself on the Super Rugby map. Playing like someone much older and battle-hardened, De Jager was combative yet cool in the high-pressure play-off.
3 Owen Franks (Crusaders) – Did exactly what is said on the family tin. Franks scrummed very well while put in a good shift around the park, making a whopping sixteen tackles, incredibly the most in Saturday's play-off. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the tighthead jersey this weekend when Franks meets Ben Tameifuna.
2 Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) – In our eyes the best hooker in world rugby right now. Strauss' leadership and tenacity was again on show over the weekend as he directed the Cheetahs well. One area that remains up for debate was whether the visitors should have taken the points when five metres out with seven minutes remaining. Strauss' reason for gambling was due to their lack of territory during the half which is a fair point. He could not do anything about Piet van Zyl's earlier quick tap from kickable range though and also Riaan Smit's off-game with the boot. In general play, the hooker was superb.
1 Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders) – Like so many of their pack, Crockett demonstrated that Crusaders forwards are able to mirror their backs' skills. The All Black's break and offload for Tom Marshall's try was out of the top drawer while he was solid at the scrum and got through thirteen tackles.