Sunday 21 July 2013

Super Rugby Review : Team of the Ladder Season

Round 20.

Apologies for the delay, but the Irish sunshine demanded attention.

The final round of matches in Super Rugby decided who played who in the qualifiers/ semi's, and their were some great moments.

It's obvious that the Crusaders are coming into form at the right time, while the Rebels produced a stunning comeback after losing at halftime by 31-7. Other picks of the round included a stunning victory for the Force, featuring a massive brain fart from Toomua, and a mauling of the Kings by the Sharks.

Now that the regular season is over, I felt it's necessary to award some of the performances by players that didn't make the playoffs. So here's the team of the season.

15. Ben Smith / Charles Piutau / Israel Folau

By a distance the hardest decision. With the playoff contenders this would have been even harder after Jesse Mogg's fabulous season. Charles Piutau was wonderful, and brought a breathe of fresh air into a Blues side that really needed it, while Ben Smith was a one man show in Dunedin, albeit in a losing side. But because of the switch, and the fact he was still a one man show with more success, I have to give it to Folau over Smith. Knowing full well that I'll change my mind on this fourteen times in the next minute.

14. Frank Halai

Frank was superb, and a competition best of 10 tries shows how well the former 7's specialist is bringing those skills to the 15 man game. Spoken of in terms of All Black selection. Watch this space. Mention too for Kade Poki and Alpati Leiua.

13. Rene Ranger

Ranger was awesome this season. He is finally in a position where he can influence games, whether by scoring tries, "Re-a-RANGERing" people, or by showing he is one of the best centres in the world at the breakdown. Montpeiller are getting a player at the top of his game. Richard Kahui and Tamati Ellison were outstanding, but were injured more often than not. Mention for a similarly effective switch to 13 from Tim Nanai Williams

12. Jean de Villiers

Outside of the playoffs teams, Jean de Villiers had a strong showing at inside centre, but Christian Lealiifano and Jan Serfontein performed better.

11. Julian Savea

Not the greatest season from Savea, and the assault charge seemed to effect him mid season, but he still scored some great tries, and Israel Dagg still has nightmares about the Savea train rolling over him.
Mention for Hosea Gear who like Smith, did well to manage 8 tries in a struggling Highlanders team.

10. Bernard Foley

The main reason why the Waratahs were a joy to watch this year was this man. Foley ran the show at his new position at standoff, making people like Cam Crawford and Israel Folau look good. Michael Cheika has unearthed a gem.

9. Fumiaki Tanaka

Perhaps a little bit of bias here, and it's strange to think that a good few Highlanders feature in this team, but Tanaka was great to watch this season, and it's hard not to have him as a favourite player. Wales discovered how effective he can be when Japan shocked them in the second test this summer. TJ Peranara did well, and a return of 7 tries can't be laughed at.

1. Ben Franks

Away from his brother for the first time, Franks shone at the Hurricanes, finally getting some regular gametime. His 10(0)m try was a sight to behold, and backed that up week in week out with strong performances. Mention for Schalk Ferraria of the Kings, whose defensive hard work lead the way for some historic performances.

2. Ged Robinson

Another tight contest, with Deon Fourie and Bandise Maku impressing. But with Fourie playing well at flanker too, Robinson had more time at hooker to show what he's got, and as the high scoring player in fantasy Super Rugby, he deservedly gets this spot.

3. Angus Ta'avao

It's hard to pick out props, especially tighthead props. James Slipper and Ben Taumiuna have done well, but as part of the playoff teams are discounted. Ta'avao bagged a few tries, and looks to be one for the future.

4. Luke Jones

The Rebels second row are by far their strongest performers. Both Pyle and Jones get through a mountain of work, and both should be closer to Wallaby reckoning. Great seasons for both.

5. Hugh Pyle

See Jones

6. Steven Luatua

What an outstanding breakout year for the 22 year old. Luatua was everywhere on the field, and New Zealand may have their heir apparent to Jerome Kaino's slot as the world's best blindside.

7. Wimpie van der Walt

Everything good about the Kings was epitomised by Wimpie van der Walt. Often running the ball two or three times a move, or tackling up to four times a play, Wan der Walt was tireless in his work, and the Kings would have been hammered as would have been expected much more without him.

8. Scott Higginbotham

Possibly the biggest loss to Australia this year, but after a slow start, "Higgers" showed that he can be a one man team, and all of the best parts about the Rebels this year came through this man. They may have been better without James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, but Scott Higginbotham takes them to new levels.


A huge performance from Cillian Hogan puts him further clear, and within touching distance of yet another victory. Plenty to play for over the next three weeks though. Other than the top two, only 5th and 6th have yet to be decided with Murray Kinsella battling Peter Corley for the spot.

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