So here's the big one! As voted for by you, by hundreds of emails, here is the Planet Rugby XV of 2009 - replete with bench.
15 Rob Kearney - Leaving aside a peculiar performance against the Scarlets in the Heineken Cup right at year's end where he trebled this year's spilled high ball count, Kearney has been fantastic. A siege gun boot has helped him through ELV issues, while once given the licence and freedom to roam and attack on the Lions tour he showed just what he can do. High point of the year was that try in the Lions' second Test.
14 Tommy Bowe - It's not often you become a folk hero and have songs made and sung about you. But such was Bowe's form on the Lions tour (on and off the field), that he became the focal point of much of the affection of the touring hordes. All together now: Tommy...Tommy Bo-oooowwwwe!'
13 BOD - It is a vast injustice that, in the year when he sealed his 100th cap for his country by sailing through a gap for a last-minute equalising try and led the Lions once again to victory with every sinew, Brian O'Driscoll missed out on the IRB Player of the Year award. But some scant consolation may come from the fact that he is the captain of this year's team...
12 Jamie Roberts - One of those who skipped the 'Newbies' list and made it straight into the senior XV, Roberts deservedly took the Lion of the Tour' gong for his destructive running power in the middle of the park.
11 Bryan Habana - This one was a close one, with Sitiveni Sivivatu less than 20 votes behind. But - and once again, probably courtesy of the Lions tour and his team's success - Habana clinched it on account of his ability to be a little more reliable at the back.
10 Matt Giteau - While Australia have floundered, Giteau's sparkling form - with on glaring exception - never let up. At times early in the year, it occasionally seemed like Giteau taking on the entire opposition. But once Australia did gel in that final game against Wales, we saw just how devastating Giteau's maverick talents can be.
9 Fourie du Preez - Our Player of the Year (when there's no sentimentality taken into account anyway), Du Preez is a shining example of how to execute a game-plan down to it's final crossed 't', as well as adding to it along the way.
8 Jamie Heaslip - An old school rumbler of a number eight who eschews video analysis and dieting for a heck of a lot of hard yards and work, Heaslip had a fantastic year.
7 Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow - Pushed up from the 'Newbies' list after Schalk Burger's moments of injury/idiocy* and thrust into the limelights of a Lions tour, BrÃ¼ssow is now South Africa's top openside in his own right. There can be no greater compliment than this fact: BrÃ¼ssow so eclipsed Richie McCaw this year that the Kiwi did not get enough votes to even feature on the bench!
* - delete as applicable
6 Rocky Elsom - How many people can say they won a continental championship, headed to the other side of the world and became captain of a top eight country, all within a year? Rocky Elsom can...
5 Victor Matfield - The vote for second-row was a close-run thing between all the people vying for a spot to partner a man who is surely now deeply ensconced in South African rugby folklore.
4 Bakkies Botha - That race to partner Victor Matfield mentioned above? Bakkies won it by eight votes, the tightest call of the entire team.
3 Martin Castrogiovanni - Italy and Leicester's cornerstone had a comparatively quiet year, but his was the performance that helped dismantle an All Black scrum in Milan in November.
2 Bismarck du Plessis - Light years ahead of all others in this position, Du Plessis had hooker after hooker come his way and leave with tails between legs. And a couple of tighthead props for that matter. And we've not yetmentioned his line-out throwing.
1 Gethin Jenkins - The world's most athletic prop, with the ability to play either side of the scrum if need be. Could you ask for any more? Indicative of Jenkins' success was the number of South Africans who gave him the nod ahead of their very own 'Beast'.
The Bench - These were the players in their respective positions who garnered the second-highest number of votes - but for Smit, Robinson and Parisse, it was also a case of tallying up the total votes from the two positions people had voted them in for, which allowed us scope to factor in a degree of versatility to our pine-riders.
16 John Smit
17 Benn Robinson
18 Paul O'Connell
19 Sergio Parisse
20 Will Genia
21 Morne Steyn
22 Sitiveni Sivivatu