At the end of every rugby season pundits, experts, ex-players and the like bring out their teams of the year. In the spirit of being an opinionated fanatic, I thought it prudent to take a stab at who impressed me this year.
1. Cyan Healy
Beast Mtwarira was consistently the best scrummager in the Rugby Championship, and was very good during the autumn internationals despite playing on three bogs. His general play was solid all-round and conceded very few penalties this year.
But ultimately I believe Cyan Healy is currently the best loose head around. Overall he simply out performs any other loose head when you look at scrumming, general play and defence.
2. Bismarck du Plessis
This one is difficult. Stephen Moore for Australia has been a rock all season, Adriaan Strauss superb. But ultimately, in spite of the controversy of yellow cards and elbows, Bismarck du Plessis has the innate ability to influence games.
He is masterful at the breakdown and acts as another pilferer, and his ball carries are strong. And although he made a few errors with his line throwing in the latter part of the autumn series, he remains the best hooker in world rugby.
3. Adam Jones
Tight head for me is a bit of a ‘who has performed the best of a not so great season for tight heads’.
The new scrum engage caused tight heads across the globe to have to adjust, and ultimately I will go with Adam Jones for his efforts during the Lions tour.
4. Eben Etzebeth
He ruled the lineouts during the Rugby Championship, he has ball carrying ability, defensive meanness and is simply a superb athlete.
5. Sam Whitelock
The only way I can describe him is that if he was to partner Etzebeth it would be one of the most formidable locking partnerships in modern rugby.
6. Willem Alberts
Yes, I know everyone will say I am biased, but I don’t care. It is the softening up of opponents that he does, often unseen in defence that gives Louw and Vermeulen freedom to do the other stuff.
Without him, the Springboks pack does not have the same power or effectiveness.
7. Michael Hooper
Controversial I know – most would expect me to pick McCaw or Kane, but Hooper has performed as a lone ranger this season.
His work rate in a struggling pack early in the season was commendable, and in the latter stages of the season, when Fardy and Mowen began to perform, his influence on the breakdown for Australia had the opportunity to shine.
For me he is a very balanced No.7 – he has great speed, high work rate and good linking ability.
8. Kieran Read
No need to say more.
9. Conor Murray
I honestly did not know who to pick here.
Fourie du Preez seems to be a popular choice, however his unavailability caused us more harm than the good he did us when he was available. We should have given youngsters an opportunity and for that reason in good conscience I cannot pick him.
Will Genia was inconsistent and Aron Smith had a good start to the season, but I am going left field here and will pick Conor Murray, purely because I thought his influence in the third Lions test was crucial.
10. Aaron Cruden
Quade Cooper ended the season well, but Aaron Cruden for me has ruled the Rugby Championship, not only with the manner in which he attacked the line but with his tactical kicking which has been simply brilliant this year.
Cruden has outshone every other flyhalf when you look at the balance of play.
11. Julian Savea
Here I want to pick Habana, for me still one of the best international wings in world rugby.
George North has also established himself and will go down as a legend of Welsh rugby, but how can you dismiss Julian Savea? His clinical finishing this year has been phenomenal.
12. Jean de Villiers
Many say Nonu has been better than Jean de Villiers, but I disagree.
Jamie Roberts played little part in the Lions series and again this autumn he was injured, so for me the captaincy, leadership, example and professionalism Jean de Villiers has shown this year puts him in at 12.
Considering the superb tries he has scored as well, Nonu does not make it in my view.
13. Conrad Smith
There have been some strong performances at outside centre – Davies for the Lions and for Wales, Conrad Smith for the All Blacks, new comer JJ Engelbrecht for the Boks, Kuridrani for Australia.
But ultimately it has to be Conrad Smith for the general that he is and the manner in which he organises and controls the outside backs of New Zealand.
14. Ben Smith
New Zealand had a number of players playing at right wing this season – Charles Piatau, Ben Smith and Corey Jane in the latter part of the season after he came back from injury.
But Ben Smith has been superb this season, even though he plays fullback most of the time.
15. Israel Folau
Willie le Roux has announced himself on the international scene similar to Israel Folau, Halfpenny has been good, Dagg has been good. But for sheer ability in the air and on attack, Israel Folau outshone everyone.
If there is any Southern SANZAR or Springbok bias in my team, then so be it. These lists are subjective and not without bias no matter how unbiased we try to be.
I tried to justify each of my selections to the best of my ability. I challenge you Roarers to pick a better team than mine.