1. Steven Kitshoff (South Africa)
Well he is certainly no longer just an impact player that is for sure. His scrummaging was dynamic and his ball carrying was destructive. The Stormer from the Western Cape may well have ended Beast Mtawarira’s international career in the process. Certainly from a starting shirt he has.
2. Codie Taylor (New Zealand)
This was such a difficult one to call with Malcolm Marx and Agustin Creevy being so consistent with their own form but Taylor offered that bit more in the loose and linked play supremely well. His assist for Aaron Smith in the final match was pivotal in changing the game back in the All Blacks favour…..even if it may or may not have been forward……
3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)
He doesn’t go as deep into the match as he used to but for the 45-50 minutes that Franks is on the field the All Black scrum on his side of the set-piece just doesn’t move backwards. A real stalwart of this team and his work often goes un-noticed.
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
I don’t know what they fed this man in Tygerberg as a child but he is a man mountain. He controls all the set piece plays and also the kick offs that come the Springbok’s way. A true athlete in every sense of the word, he makes ground, disrupts ball and tackles hard. He won 28 lineouts across the Tournament which is 5 more than anyone else.
5. Franco Mostert (South Africa)
An all South African second row as Etezebeth’s foil, Franco Mostert takes his place in the side. He grew into the competition as it went on and by the end of it he was making mincemeat of the Kiwi lineout. One of his impressive traits is the lines he runs off the fly-half to open gaps and the ability to offload off the deck.
6. Pablo Matera (Argentina)
The back row is so hard to pick but this man stood out in the Los Pumas team all the way through the tournament. Powerful running, turnovers (joint top forward with 5) and huge hits are his bread and butter but his off-loading game and linking of play went a long way to winning the Argentinians their two matches.
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)
He has waited patiently in the wings for his opportunity to cement his place in his preferred position on the flank. He only started 5 of the 6 matches but made the most tackles in the Championship with 83. His performance in Wellington followed by tears afterwards spoke volumes for how long this man has waited for this opportunity.
8. David Pocock (Australia)
If I was to go to war I would want this man right beside me. He takes so much under hand treatment from the opposition but in a way that is a compliment because he is that good. In a team that has been struggling he stuck to his task with admirable gusto. Second highest tackler behind Du Toit (72).
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
There will Springbok and Wallaby fans disagreeing with this one as Faf de Klerk and Will Genia had fantastic tournaments but Smith edges them because of the way he can turn a game in the All Blacks favour. When games have been tight he has always managed to pop up and score or set a try up. He bagged three over the tournament and in both Springbok matches they turned the game back towards the All Blacks favour.
10. Nicolás Sánchez (Argentina)
By far and away the best fly-half in the competition this season. His elusive running led to 4 tries of his own as he ended the competition as top points scorer on 67. He is the man that sets this exciting backline alight. Defensively he controls proceedings as well and if his influence was to be questioned then look what happened to Argentina after he went off in the final game.
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
Dyantyi is a player that could well be in this team of the competition for many years to come. HE finished as joint top try scorer but that was not due to the amount of defenders he beat but more to do with his reading of the game both in attack and defence. The fact he is lightning quick just enhances that skill set.
12. Reece Hodge (Australia)
Hodge played outside centre for the tournament but as there was no stand out inside centre I have moved him inside. He’s not just got a hefty boot, which is the first thing that everyone says when you mention his name, he is also a very elusive runner that can go around people and through them if he decides that would work better. He kept the ball alive well and his offloading game is a potent weapon.
13. Matias Moroni (Argentina)
There wasn’t really any stand out centres all the way through the Championship but Moroni was the unsung hero in the Argentinian back line. Whilst the likes of Delguy, Boffeli and Moyano were taking all of the try scoring plaudits it was usually Moroni on the dummy run or throwing the decisive pass to them to dive over.
14. Ben Smith (New Zealand)
Smith had a fairly quiet Championship to the naked eye but that is because he is that good you tend to look past the fact he has one of the best all round games in world rugby. He beat 22 defenders (5th in tournament), made 380 metres (2nd), offloaded 8 times (2nd), made 62 carries (4th) and made more clean breaks than anyone with 15 in total.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (Australia)
Haylett-Petty is making the 15 shirt his own as Israel Folau moves to the wing and a bit like Ben Smith, he is an elusive runner that will often beat the first man. He carried for an impressive 397 metres off his 70 carries to top that stat chart but he was also imperious under the high ball and nabbed 3 tries to boot.
Do you agree with the above team?
Feel free to comment below
Photo Credit: David Molloy via freeforcommercialuse.org