Super Rugby: Team of the Year

Date published: July 7 2015

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Now that the dust has settled after the Super Rugby season, we select the players that stood out over the past five months.

The Highlanders and Hurricanes were the two outstanding teams, so it's no surprise that they make up the bulk of our XV.

Be sure to select your favourite XV in the comments section below.

SUPER RUGBY TEAM OF 2015

15 Ben Smith (Highlanders): Another top year for the Highlanders vice-captain, except this time he has the medal to show for it. Smith finished 2015 with the fourth-highest number of offloads and carries, the fifth-most metres and defenders beaten and 21 clean breaks, but that doesn't tell the whole story about the influence he has on his side. He offers so much security and class in every game he plays. Takes the slot ahead of Israel Folau, who even in a quieter year was excellent.

14 Waisake Naholo (Highlanders): Super Rugby's top try-scorer this season as the Blues' loss has been the Highlanders' gain. What a campaign of finishing from the big Fijian, who ended with thirteen touchdowns to see off the Hurricanes entertainment machine Nehe Milner-Skudder. Both have been included in New Zealand's training squad ahead of the Rugby Championship and on this form, they might stick around.

13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes): It wasn't the farewell he would have wanted, but as he has for much of his career, Smith was the epitome of consistency for the Hurricanes. A natural leader, the Hurricanes skipper used his clever linking play to help some of his more explosive teammates shine. He just gets the nod over All Black rival Malakai Fekitoa, who followed up his breakthrough campaign with another impressive sesason, while Samu Kerevi deserves a mention in an otherwise woeful Reds outfit.

12 Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes): The All Blacks veteran was barely recognisable from the player that disappointed so much at the Highlanders and Blues. A return to the 'Canes saw Nonu at his world-class best and wasn't it awesome! There were plenty of line-breaks and big hits every week and his try in the final was well taken. A mention for Stormers centre Damian De Allende, who topped the charts for defenders beaten.

11 Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders): He might have missed the start of the season, but once he was fit, Nadolo was just unstoppable. A unique combination of size, power and pace, he racked up nine tries in just 13 games, including a score in each of the Crusaders last five games. That was enough to see off Julian Savea, excellent once more despite his costly drop in the final, and Patrick Osborne, the third member of the Highlanders' devastating back three.

10 Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders): 191 points from the consistent number ten, who alongside Aaron Smith, directed the Highlanders so well in 2015. He edges out beaten finalist Beauden Barrett to our ten jersey, with the 'Cane scoring some great team tries but wasn't at his best off the tee. Sopoaga was certainly that and fully deserved his recent call-up to the All Blacks squad. He is really maturing as a player.

9 Aaron Smith (Highlanders): Hard luck to TJ Perenara who scored eleven tries this season, showing brilliant support lines along with a calmness and intelligence at the base for the 'Canes. However, how could Smith miss out here? The smallest player on the pitch in terms of size but arguably the one with a biggest heart as he inspired the Highlanders so often, ultimately to the Super Rugby title. Top class.

8 Duane Vermeulen (Stormers): The value of the Springbok number eight's contribution to his team's cause was laid bare when 'Thor' was missing from their play-off XV and the wheels came off the bus. Beyond being a monster when carrying, as well as in defence, the Stormers captain was brilliant at poaching off the deck. Mentions for Lions tackle machine Warren Whiteley and the all-time Super Rugby top try-scoring forward, Scott Higginbotham.

7 Jaco Kriel (Lions): We're still not quite sure how Kriel didn't crack the Springbok squad, even in a position of strength for South Africa. The Lions loosie was outstanding in virtually every facet of play, carrying like a back and finishing with more defenders beaten than any other forward. He was also brilliant in defence and on the deck, and as a result he gets in ahead of Wallaby duo David Pocock and Michael Hooper, both of whom impressed in their very different ways. Ardie Savea also needs to be mentioned and was sorely missed in the Final.

6 Elliot Dixon (Highlanders): A massive try both in terms of power and importance in the Super Rugby Final ended with Dixon being named Man of the Match, but his work throughout the year in a dogged Highlanders pack wins him this spot on the side of the scrum. Effective at the lineout with seven steals, Dixon was one of the competition's top tacklers and made a number of key plays at the breakdown all year long. Gets in ahead of Brad Shields and the incredibly impressive Akira Ioane.

5 James Broadhurst (Hurricanes): An easy decision here. If Broadhurst does not get a seat on the plane to England then we'd be amazed. He did not stop for the cause as he was a constant threat with ball in hand who made over 100 carries and tackles this season to beat abrasive Lions second-row Franco Mostert. In truth, though, the South African didn't come close to this towering lock.

4 Luke Jones (Rebels): The Rebels made huge strides this year and a lot of that was down to the work of Jones, who surprisingly was left out of the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship. Jones was massive at the lineout with 61 takes, the fourth-highest total this year, but it was his work around the field with 166 carries along with a big number of turnovers and tackles that caught our eye. Keeps out both Will Skelton and Jeremy Thrush.

3 Sekope Kepu (Waratahs): Australian props are generally seen more as a punchline than serious contenders for a team of the season, but it's hard to ignore Kepu's performances. Conceding just three scrum penalties all year, Kepu won more penalties (27) than any other tighthead at the set-piece. He was also very active both in attack (most offloads) and defence for the 'Tahs. Frans Malherbe might have edged him if he'd started all season for the Stormers, while Greg Holmes was worth his Wallaby recall at the Reds.

2 Stephen Moore (Brumbies): Picked again as captain of the Wallabies and has enjoyed another fine year with the Brumbies, who finished with the second-best lineout success rate in the competition. Provides plenty of inspiration but also finished with ten turnovers and threatened with the ball in hand as the Brumbies pack regularly powered past opponents. Gets into the side ahead of another excellent international hooker in Dane Coles.

1 Steven Kitshoff (Stormers): A key member of the Stormers scrum that dominated all comers, Kitshoff looks set to star at the World Cup. Beyond his outstanding set-piece work, he made the second most runs of any prop in the competition. Mentions too for Reggie Goodes and Scott Sio.

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