Super Rugby: Team of the Year

Date published: August 8 2016

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Now that the dust has settled on the first-ever 18-team Super Rugby campaign, we sat down and eventually settled on our Team of the Year.

As expected, New Zealand and South African players dominated the selection while there was a lone Australian who made the cut in this XV.

So without further ado, here's the line-up.

Super Rugby: Team of the Year

15 Damian McKenzie (Chiefs): Definitely in the top three performers this Super Rugby season, McKenzie was a revelation at the back for the Chiefs. He made tournament highs of 215 carries, 31 clean breaks, beat 67 defenders and 1034 metres as he devastated defences. Ben Smith was the next in line for this jersey but in truth it was a simple decision as McKenzie enjoyed a brilliant campaign in Hamilton.

14 Ruan Combrinck (Lions): Eight tries from the workmanlike Combrinck as he powered his way to an international debut thanks to this Super Rugby form. Made as many clean breaks as McKenzie (31) and also beat 57 defenders to go with 1276 metres. An impressive campaign.

13 Israel Folau (Waratahs): Lionel Mapoe went close here after his strongest season to date, with the outside centre leading the try chart at a stage. But Folau consistently turned up for a Waratahs side that didn't fire on all cylinders. To finish top of the try standings without his team making the play-offs is some feat. Such a tough man to get to ground, Folau can hold his head after this season.

12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Lions): 21 years old but doesn't look it, Janse van Rensburg crashed over the advantage line at will. An ideal number 12 for Elton Jantjies, he enjoyed an excellent season in a strong Lions backline. A mention for Anton-Lienert Brown of the Chiefs.

11 James Lowe (Chiefs): Continues to impress for the Chiefs and alongside McKenzie he had opposition defences scrambling at thin air at times in 2016. Made 1062 metres, 157 carries and 26 offloads, with his cultured left boot also a useful option for the Chiefs.

10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes): Man-of-the-match in the Super Rugby final and he could have picked up similar gongs in each of the Hurricanes' knockout games. Sees off the impressive Elton Jantjies to this jersey, with Barrett the competition's top points scorer and two tries off Folau on the leading try chart. It is tough to imagine Barrett not wearing the black 10 shirt in the Rugby Championship.

9 Faf de Klerk (Lions): A hotly-contested spot as Brad Weber, Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara all enjoyed strong seasons for the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes respectively. But De Klerk was a livewire for the Lions, announcing himself on the Super Rugby scene in some style. His running game caused rival teams issues while the tempo he gave his side and also his determined defence were all positives.

8 Warren Whiteley (Lions): The Lions captain was at the forefront of his side's run to the final. The inspirational skipper persevered through injury and turned down an Olympic chance to make sure he could be there for his pride. It was not only his leadership that was exemplary but his attacking performances after acting as an astute distributor for the Lions. Jaguares rising star Facundo Isa stuck up his hand this competition as well. The 22-year old finished the year ranked eighth for tries scored as he crossed the whitewash eight times, which is an admirable accomplishment considering the Jaguares' record. He is definitely someone to look out for next season.

7 Ardie Savea (Hurricanes): The Savea family will have a new head of the table after this season. He ran like a centre with ball in hand, beating 37 defenders, giving 10 offloads and running 678 metres. But it is his defensive quality where he really made his mark after finishing second in turnovers won with 26 and ending first in tackles made with a monstrous 205 hits made. Jaco Kriel also deserves applause for a stellar season. He finished 2016 third on the overall statistics for defenders beaten while grabbing six tries for his side.

6 Elliot Dixon (Highlanders): Dixon displayed a fantastic overall performance for his side this season. He outdid himself as he provided a solid support running option for his team-mates as he ran 299 metres in the competition while breaking the line on a number of occasions. He did this while doing more than his fair share on defence, proving to be a menace at the breakdown securing nine turnovers. Jordan Taufua was also strong for the Crusaders.

5 Franco Mostert (Lions): Although he's not as big as his South African second-row contemporaries, what Mostert lacks in size he more than makes up for in heart as he led the team from Johannesburg's forward onslaught on numerous occasions this season. Mostert was one of his team's unsung heroes with his physicality in defence a standout feature of his game.

4 Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes): The eventual champions looked rather thin in the second-row due to Jeremy Thrush's departure and the absence of James Broadhurst but in Fifita and Michael Fatialofa they found able replacements. Fifita secured his place in the XV with several barnstorming performances at the coalface of their forward effort and he crossed for three tries during 17 out of 18 appearances.

3 Vincent Koch (Stormers): The Saracens-bound prop was playing second fiddle to fellow Springbok Frans Malherbe at the start of the season for the Cape Town-based franchise but was their first-choice tighthead by the time of the play-offs. Koch bested his man in the scrums but made a big impact on attack and finished with six tries for the season. Beats out Lions hardman Julian Redilinghuys.

2 Malcolm Marx (Lions): Although he's 22, Marx played with a maturity beyond his years in the Lions' impressive run to the final and his fine form was rewarded with a call-up to Springbok Rugby Championship squad. Marx brought lots of physicality to the Lions' forward effort but his mobility also caught the eye as well as foraging skills at the breakdown. Edges out the impressive Dane Coles of the Hurricanes and Stephen Moore of the Brumbies, with the latter scoring seven tries in his last season at the Canberra outfit.

1 Dylan Smith (Lions): Another youngster who went from strength to strength during the Lions' memorable season as he seldom took a backward step in the scrums. The 22-year-old also did well on defence, especially around the fringes of the rucks and mauls and is sure to be rewarded with a Bok call-up if this form continues. A mention elsewhere goes to Reg Goodes, who was excellent for the 'Canes.

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