With another Rugby Championship now a thing of the past, it is time for us to sit down and select our dream team from this year’s tournament.
Read on to see who made the cut.
Rugby Championship: Team of the Tournament
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand): Was tight between the Highlanders man and Willie le Roux (South Africa) but we went for the All Black following another outstanding Rugby Championship. Featured in every game, either at full-back or on the wing, and impressed in most matches. He struggled against South Africa on Saturday but that was the 32-year-old’s only blemish in an otherwise excellent tournament for the back three player.
14 Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa): There were a plethora of options who stood out in the odd game but they lacked consistency, so we’ve moved Dyantyi, who was clearly the second best wing behind Rieko Ioane, over from the left. Argentina’s Bautista Delguy and New Zealand’s Waisake Naholo came closest to usurping the Springbok but a breakthrough year for the Lions player was capped by a series of impressive displays in the southern hemisphere competition.
13 Jack Goodhue (New Zealand): Missed the final two games but did more than enough to get selected in the outside centre position ahead of Reece Hodge. The youngster was excellent and particularly impressed in the two Bledisloe Cup matches where they comfortably beat their rivals. Despite the presence of Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown, Goodhue should be first choice during the November series.
12 Ryan Crotty (New Zealand): Played at both inside and outside centre but we went for him at 12 having impressed when available. Went off early on against Australia in the opening match but came back for the final three rounds and did well. Various players had their moments, with Andre Esterhuizen (South Africa), Jeronimo de la Fuente (Argentina) and also Lienert-Brown performing at a decent standard, but Crotty takes it for his consistency.
11 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): An easy decision this one with the All Blacks flyer back to his best in the final three rounds. Was quiet against Australia and then missed the next two matches, but returned against South Africa and was their standout player in that defeat. Argentina’s Ramiro Moyano also enjoyed a fine tournament but Ioane is comfortably the best wing in the world at the moment.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): His place was questioned before the tournament but he answered the critics superbly with two stunning displays in the Bledisloe Cup. Did not enjoy a great day from the tee against South Africa, which led to further doubts, but once again he responded by correcting those issues in Round Five versus Argentina. As a result, Barrett edged out Nicolas Sanchez, who had a couple of excellent performances in the competition.
9 Faf de Klerk (South Africa): Aaron Smith was his usual excellent self for the All Blacks, but De Klerk provided a spark for South Africa. Had an off-day in the away game with Australia but was otherwise hugely impressive throughout as the Springboks finished the Rugby Championship in second position. However, he will now miss the November series after the SARU agreed to release him to play for club side Sale Sharks in the Premiership, so it will be interesting to see how they fare without the energetic scrum-half.
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand): It’s the New Zealand skipper who gets the nod after playing consistently well at the base of the world champions’ scrum. Read did well on attack and defence throughout and his superb skill-set and leadership proved invaluable to the All Blacks, while he finished third for lineout takes (21) in the tournament.
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7 David Pocock (Australia): Pumas rookie Marcos Kremer was unlucky to miss out as he played well for his side, but his time will come and we simply had to find space for Pocock, who was a shining light for the Wallabies. Pocock showed again that he is the game’s premier breakdown exponent and his prowess in that facet of play won numerous turnovers for his side. Also made his presence felt on defence and as a ball carrier.
6 Pablo Matera (Argentina): Arguably Argentia’s best player and one of the standout performers in the entire tournament. Matera was a constant threat on attack and scored some important tries at crucial stages of the Pumas’ camapign. Also did his bit with some outstanding defensive efforts which helped the Pumas to their best ever effort in the competition.
5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): The Springbok enforcer played in the number four position but made our team side at number five twice during the tournament. The Stormers stalwart is vital to South Africa’s cause and was particularly impressive in the Boks’ opener against Argentina in Durban and against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth in Round Five. His physicality is second to none but the lock also impressed in his core duties, particularly at the lineout. It was excellent throughout and he won the most balls (28) in the competition at the set-piece.
4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand): Only played in three games before a shoulder injury ruled him out for the tournament’s remaining games but he played so well that we had to find a spot for him in our team. Retallick was superb in the All Blacks’ two games against the Wallabies and showed his class by scoring one of the tries of the tournament in the opener in Sydney. Also impressed with some deft touches which put team-mates into space and shone in the lineouts.
3 Owen Franks (New Zealand): Still the lynchpin of the world champions’ scrum and came to the fore with some dominant performances in the set-piece. Made his 100th Test appearance during the tournament and although he does not do anything spectacular, he put his body on the line for his team. Also impressed with his defensive work especially at close quarters.
2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa): Gets the nod ahead of the All Blacks’ Codie Taylor after making three appearances in our team during the competition. Marx’s robust play at the coalface of the Springboks’ forward effort was impressive and his upper-body strength saw him winning several crucial turnovers. Is fast establishing himself as one of the best hookers in the world. Marx did his bit as a ball-carrier, was solid in the scrums and accurate with his throw-ins at the lineouts.
1 Karl Tu’inukuafe (New Zealand): Another tight call as his countryman Joe Moody also caught the eye but we’ve opted for the Chiefs player. Tu’inukuafe made his Super Rugby debut in March and showed steady improvement as the season progressed. A strong scrummager, who also did well in general play, the 24-year-old cemented his place in the world champions’ starting line-up with several superb all-round performances.