The Chiefs pulled off two in a row this past weekend as they beat the Brumbies 27-22 in a thrilling Super Rugby final in Hamilton. The match was a true testament to what Super Rugby has stood for since its inception in 1996 and kept me on the edge of my seat as the match ebbed and flowed. For a stage it looked as though the Brumbies would sneak an unlikely win but as the match entered its final quarter – and with the Brumbies ahead – the task at hand seemed a step too far for the Aussie outfit as tired legs allowed the Chiefs to sneak in two quick tries. It was a valiant effort from the Brumbies, who had to travel to Pretoria the week before for their semi final encounter with the Bulls, however they never managed to recover the lead and eventually capitulated to a Chiefs outfit determined to swing the pill. You would think that these two teams would make up the bulk of rugby365’s Team of the Tournament – but you’d be wrong.
The selection makes for interesting reading and it would be interesting to note selections by franchise too – I’ve included this at the bottom.
Team of the Tournament:
15 – Ben Smith (Highlanders):
The one shining light in an otherwise bitterly disappointing season for the Dunedin franchise.
Bubbling under: Israel Folau (Waratahs)
14 – Willie le Roux (Cheetahs):
The most exciting player in South Africa at the moment.
Bubbling under: Henry Speight (Brumbies)
13 – Conrad Smith (Hurricanes):
It was the skill and guile of Conrad Smith against the often brute force of Rene Ranger, with skill winning the day.
Bubbling under: Rene Ranger (Blues)
12 – Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies):
He set himself apart as a distributor, while adding the goal-kicking option in the contest for the inside centre spot.
Bubbling under: Jan Serfontein (Bulls)
11 – Julian Savea (Hurricanes):
It takes a pretty special player to overcome the personal demons he had to deal with this year and then perform as consistently as he did.
Bubbling under: Bryan Habana (Stormers)
10 – Dan Carter (Crusaders):
Was there ever any doubt? However, it was a really tough call for his back-up – Aaron Cruden and Morné Steyn the main rivals.
Bubbling under: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
9 – Will Genia (Reds):
He may have faded (read, got tired) in the latter stages, but this was about a competition that started in February and finished in August, not just the last three weeks.
Bubbling under: TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
8 – Kieran Read (Crusaders):
Another of our unanimous selections.
Bubbling under: Philip van der Walt (Cheetahs)
7 – George Smith (Brumbies):
It must rank as one of the all-time best comeback stories and he came so close to a fairytale finish.
Bubbling under: Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
6 – Liam Messam (Chiefs):
His value to the Chiefs cause was epitomised in his performance in the Final, but it was more about how consistently he performed at that level throughout the season.
Bubbling under: Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs)
5 – Brodie Retallick (Chiefs):
It was really tough separating Retallick and Crusaders rival Sam Whitelock in the battle of the All Blacks. Retallick had the advantage of having played in the Final.
Bubbling under: Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
4 – Craig Clarke (Chiefs):
It was another interesting debate and even though the final vote count went in favour of Clarke, Eben Etzebeth made a strong counter argument.
Bubbling under: Eben Etzebeth (Stormers)
3 – Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs):
He is remarkably mobile for such a large lad – all 135 kilograms of him. Yes, he seldom lasts a full game, but often his involvement is of such a nature that the damage is done by half-time and the replacement can make a good ‘impact’.
Bubbling under: Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2 – Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs):
He led by example and was a key to the Cheetahs earning a play-off spot for the first time.
Bubbling under: Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls)
1 – Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs):
His ability to play on both sides of the scrum – when he often started at loosehead and shifted to tighthead after the break – made him a key player for the Cheetahs.
Bubbling under: Toby Smith (Chiefs)
Team of the Tournament By Franchise:
Chiefs – 4 players in Team of the Tournament, 1 in Bubbling Under Team
Cheetahs – 3 players in Team of the Tournament, 2 in Bubbling Under Team
Brumbies – 2 players in Team of the Tournament, 1 in Bubbling Under Team
Crusaders – 2 players in Team of the Tournament, 2 in Bubbling Under Team
Hurricanes – 2 players in Team of the Tournament, 1 in Bubbling Under Team
Highlanders – 1 player in Team of the Tournament, 0 in Bubbling Under Team
Reds – 1 players in Team of the Tournament, 0 in Bubbling Under Team
Bulls – 0 players in Team of the Tournament, 3 in Bubbling Under Team
Waratahs – 0 players in Team of the Tournament, 2 in Bubbling Under Team
Stormers – 0 players in Team of the Tournament, 2 in Bubbling Under Team
Blues – 0 players in Team of the Tournament, 1 in Bubbling Under Team