Now that the dust has settled on Super Rugby 2018, it’s time for us to look back over the recent campaign and pick our Team of the Season.
Our side has been selected on previous round picks as we trawl back to the opening round, counting up who performed well until the final game.
There is a healthy mix of teams represented but surprisingly just two players from the champion Crusaders make the cut. Who’d make your XV.
Super Rugby: Team of the Season
15 Israel Folau (Waratahs): With three votes he was tied with Jordie Barrett and David Havili, with Solomon Alaimalo on two. However, Folau edges this jersey after yet another strong campaign in Waratahs colours. Such a threat with ball in hand, his combination with wing Taqele Naiyaravoro was something to behold in 2018, with Folau setting up many of the big man’s 15 tries. Folau meanwhile finished with 11 tries.
14 Ben Lam (Hurricanes): Lam shot to fame this year after a career that, up until 2018, had seemed to be fizzling out. He struggled at the Blues, with Sevens taking priority, but since his move to the Hurricanes he looks rejuvenated. We have switched him to the right wing here due to the fact he finished top of the try-scoring chart on an impressive 16 and was also selected five times in our weekly team line-ups.
13 Jack Goodhue (Crusaders): Another relatively simple decision here as Goodhue made four of our teams this season, seeing off Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Curtis Rona and Anton Lienert-Brown with consummate ease. The Crusaders youngster was a rock in defence alongside Ryan Crotty and complimented that with intelligent running and a good skillset in possession. His stock continues to rise after this superb campaign.
12 Kurtley Beale (Waratahs): What a return to Super Rugby from the Wallaby. He was excellent this season and it’s no coincidence the ‘Tahs shot up the table from sixteenth to third position on the overall standings following his arrival. Beale edged out Rieko Ioane, who showed his versatility this year, as the dangerous Wallaby star sparked numerous attacks and helped take the pressure off fly-half Bernard Foley.
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs): A third Waratah makes our backline with four selections this season, seeing off George Bridge who was a consistent performer for the Crusaders. Naiyaravoro though finished with 15 tries, 42 clean breaks, 70 defenders beaten and a huge 1,478 metres ran with ball in hand to be one of the most feared backs in Super Rugby. The Waratahs’ loss is most definitely Northampton’s gain.
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders): Despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury, Mo’unga still managed to cruise to this shirt after a brilliant campaign. Beauden Barrett and Hayden Parker were next in line but some way off the Crusader, who ran the show in 2018. Supreme in possession, with the boot and also solid defensively, he could not have done any more as he looks to push for more All Black minutes.
9 Aaron Smith (Highlanders): New Zealand’s number one number nine was out in front here with four selections as he saw off Bryn Hall, TJ Perenara and Gonzalo Bertranou, who all had more than one pick. Smith, as always, was the general at the base for the Dunedin side but he will have been hugely disappointed with how their season finished at the hands of the ‘Tahs. Leading 23-6, Smith’s team then crumbled in Sydney.
8 Akira Ioane (Blues): The Blues struggled as a team, and eventually finished in 14th position on the overall table, but Ioane was one of their shining lights throughout the season and eventually received four votes. He was a constant threat with ball in hand and got his side over the gain-line with countless carries in which he combined raw power with superb athleticism. Finished the season in joint first place – with Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs – for defenders beaten (74) and beats out Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders and the Rebels’ Amanaki Mafi, who both played huge roles for their respective teams.
7 David Pocock (Brumbies): Only made his long-awaited return to the game in Round Seven but still gets into our team despite a strong challenge from Hurricanes tearaway Ardie Savea, who also shone on a consistent basis. Pocock’s prowess at the breakdown is one of his main strengths and he was dominant in that facet of play throughout this season again. The Wallaby also shone as a ball carrier and on defence with his ability to win turnover ball in the tackle particularly impressive.
6 Luke Jacobson (Chiefs): The surprise package in our side, the 2017 New Zealand U20 captain’s game has come on in leaps and bounds during his rookie season and his selection is no mean feat as he gets the nod ahead of proven internationals in Pablo Matera (Jaguares), Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks), Liam Squire (Highlanders) and Brad Shields (Hurrcicanes). Jacobson’s physicality as a ball carrier was excellent and he also shone in defence throughout the season.
5 Franco Mostert (Lions): The Springbok lock was one of the Lions’ standout performers and played consistently well throughout 2018. Was at the forefront of the Johannesburg outfit’s onslaught up front and it’s hardly surprising that he finished the campaign as the tournament’s most prolific tackler (234) and line-out jumper (87). Based on those statistics, Mostert deserves his place in our team while Highlanders stalwart Tom Franklin also caught the eye after several superb performances.
4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs): The All Black enforcer missed some of the Chiefs’ matches due to injury but still makes our team as he was in fine form for the two-time champions when fit. Shone in the line-outs and never shirked his responsibilities at the coalface of his side’s forward effort, but it’s his excellent ball carrying and handling skills which secured his place in our line-up. Retallick’s All Blacks team-mate Scott Barrett of the Crusaders and the Rebels’ Matt Philip were next best.
3 Taniela Tupou (Reds): A much improved player under the guidance of Reds head coach Brad Thorn, the Wallaby has combined his explosive power as a ball carrier with the more traditional characteristics of a tight forward which has had the desired effect on his all-round game. The 22-year-old has become very influential at scrum-time and also puts his body on the line in defence and played with a maturity beyond his years in 2018. Thomas du Toit of the Sharks was next best.
2 Malcolm Marx (Lions): There was little debate about this position as Marx solidified his growing reputation by making our team on six occasions. Performed well in his core duties especially his throw-ins at the line-outs where he finished with a 90 percent success rate, which is the best return by a hooker in the tournament. Marx’s dynamism on attack saw him crossing for 12 tries and he also stood out at the breakdowns where he won countless turnovers. The Crusaders’ Codie Taylor, Armand van der Merwe of the Sharks and Jaguares veteran Agustin Creevy were next best.
1 Jacques van Rooyen (Lions): Marx’s front-row partner from the Lions also makes the team for the second successive year after a string of impressive performances for the Johannesburg-based outfit. Van Rooyen withstood stiff competition from players like Karl Tu’inukuafe (Chiefs), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Scott Sio (Brumbies) and JP Smith (Reds) but gets the nod due to his superb scrummaging and ability to gain ground as a ball carrier.