Rugby Championship Team of the Tournament: All Blacks dominate selection after title-winning campaign

James While
Rugby Championship Team of the Tournament: Split image of All Blacks, Ardie Savea, Springbok Frans Malherbe and Los Pumas Emiliano Boffelli.

With the dust having settled on the Rugby Championship, we have gone through the action to pick the best players from the tournament.

The All Blacks claimed the title after an emphatic 40-14 win over Australia that set the Springboks a difficult challenge of beating Argentina by more than 39 points to challenge for the title, of which Jacques Nienaber’s side only managed a 38-21 victory.

Team of the tournament

15 Jordie Barrett(New Zealand): A hard pick with no real standouts in the tournament, but Barrett’s consistency gets him the nod over the sometimes erratic but always entertaining South African, Willie le Roux. However, one wonders how long Barrett will stay at 15 given his excellence at 12 this weekend.

14 Will Jordan (New Zealand): A brilliant season from the All Black flyer saw him make more clean breaks in the tournament and probably got more fans out of their seats and on their feet than any other player. He sees off the claims of the impressive Wallaby Andrew Kellaway.

13 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): The wing convert is enjoying life in the centres, where his bulk and pace are proving an integral part of the All Black game plan. South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am is still a force to be reckoned with but was injured for a large part of the season, whilst Matias Moroni was outstanding at times for Argentina.

12 Damian de Allende (South Africa): De Allende’s direct, physical and intelligent play at 12 is an important part of Springbok tactics, especially in kick chase. Elsewhere Jeronimo de la Fuente impressed on each occasion he played for Los Pumas, whilst Australia’s Hunter Paisami showed promise

11 Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina): One of our toughest choices given the form of Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa), Marika Koroibete (Australia) and Caleb Clarke (New Zealand). However, The Boff made our team of the week on four occasions, and his value to any side he plays for is illustrated by his topping of the points scored table and his career goal-kicking percentage of 91%.

10 Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand): Equal with Boffelli on 71 points, the All Black pivot’s recall was crucial in stopping the rot for Ian Foster and his team, offering huge control at ten. Our runner-up was the impressive Argentinian Santiago Carreras, who provided Los Pumas with some wonderful moments in attack.

9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): The evergreen Smith got his mojo back once in partnership with Mo’unga, and their stewardship kept the All Blacks moving forward towards both the goal-line and the title. Jaden Hendrikse also impressed for South Africa as he finally got an extended run as a starter for the Springboks.

8 Jasper Wiese (South Africa): We could have picked any of four players here, with equal merit, but Wiese’s power in carry and contact was an important factor in SA’s championship campaign and sees him take the shirt by a whisker over the equally impressive Rob Valetini of Australia and Pablo Matera of Argentina.

7 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): Picking the outstanding Argentinian Juan Martin Gonzalez was very tempting for the Planet Rugby selectors as he scored four great tries, but Savea’s carries, tackles and leadership are an absolute X Factor in the NZ pack, and he moves across to arguably his best position in our team of the season.

6 Marcos Kremer (Argentina): Kremer made more tackles (80) than any other player in the competition and was a tower of power in the Los Puma’s defence, making it a simple choice, despite the excellence of Pieter Steph Du Toit for South Africa.

5 Lood de Jager (South Africa): Big Lood was supremely reliable, and his presence in the SA Maul pod was crucial as he topped the line-out stats with 26 takes. Tomas Lavaninni had a great tournament, as did Brodie Retallick of New Zealand, but de Jager was the most effective lock in the competition.

4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): A man that crossed the 100 cap mark this season, he continues to be the best Test lock in world rugby, with abrasion and confrontation at the heart of his game. Sam Whitelock looked back to his best, and he is our runner-up.

3 Frans Malherbe (South Africa): The easiest choice of our side, Malherbe’s scrummaging power is unequalled in the game. It was his presence that won the crucial last game for the Springboks, whilst Tyrel Lomax’s improvement sees him runner-up to the Springbok world champion.

2 Samisoni Taukei’aho (New Zealand): Whilst tighthead was the easiest choice, hooker was the hardest, with Malcolm Marx (South Africa) and Julian Montoya (Argentina) both world-class contenders. However, five tries and a better line-out percentage than the others see the young All Black win a berth in our starting side. We are sure Marx would trot on after 45 minutes, though!

1 Ethan de Groot (New Zealand): When tightheads like Malherbe struggle against a loosehead, then you know you have something special in your team, and de Groot demonstrated exactly this. Argentina’s Thomas Gallo’s work around the park is hugely impressive, and we predict a big future for this former star of the U20’s World Cup.

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