Team of the Rugby Championship: battle for each position

Harry Jones Roar Guru

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    With the dust having settled on another All Black-won Rugby Championship, perhaps we have enough space and time to reflect on the most consistently influential performers by position.

    I’ve looked at the statistics, watched all 500 or so minutes (adding ten for Cape Town and ten for all the other over-80:00 time), and cut it down to mano a mano duels for each jersey.

    Fullback: Damian McKenzie versus Israel Folau

    Macca, because he passed and kicked better, positioned himself well and basically won the second Test against the Boks with one big moment. Folau does have the better offloading game, but all in all, McKenzie.

    Right Wing: Marika Koroibete versus Nehe Milner-Skudder

    I’ll go with the unlucky Wellington flyer, because he played more complete rugby (for instance, kicking 35 clearances or tactical kicks), even though the Aussie was definitely a revelation for the future. Milner-Skudder.

    Outside Centre: Ryan Crotty versus Tevita Kuridrani

    Crotty’s positional sense (leading to fewer turnovers) and tackling effectiveness wins the day here; he also passed better and scored a “waist-high” try in Cape Town that was sort of miraculous. Crotty.

    Inside Centre: Kurtley Beale versus Jan Serfontein

    Relatively easy to choose Beale: he was poor on defence (68%) but offered a wildly effective attack to his team, at times turning the game by himself. Beale.

    Left Wing: Rieko Ioane versus Reece Hodge

    No contest here, although Hodge acquitted himself well, most of the time. Ioane is a nightmare to contain; big enough to steamroll defenders, but fast enough to leave most in the dust. Ioane.

    Rieko Ioane for New Zealand at Sydney Sevens

    (Photo: Martin Seras Lima)

    Flyhalf: Beauden Barrett versus Bernard Foley

    Barrett, but not as clearcut as might be imagined, because Foley played one of his better, upwardly mobile tourneys. Barrett.

    Scrumhalf: Will Genia versus Aaron Smith

    Genia broke games open a bit more than a quieter Smith (from usual). His team relied on him more, too. Genia.

    No. 8: Kieran Read versus Sean McMahon

    Read played a different role this year, it seemed. He edges the hard-running McMahon because of his big hard tackles (8 dominant), his lineout prowess (22 takes), and his perfect passes. Read.

    Openside Flank: Michael Hooper versus Siya Kolisi

    A tough match-up between two non-traditional flankers, both more of the old-fashioned tearaway fast-forwards than the early 21st-century pilferer-jacklers.

    Hooper gets the nod because Kolisi tended to fade in games and in the tournament. Hooper.

    Blindside Flank: Pablo Matera versus Liam Squire

    If this was for one game, it might be Vaea Fifita or Pieter-Steph du Toit, but consistency is part of it. Matera was the most incisive runner and a better tackler than the bruising Squire, over the course of the whole tournament. Matera.

    No. 5 Lock: Adam Coleman versus Sam Whitelock

    A bit of a turnstile for lineout locks this year, but we’ll give this to Coleman because he ran a bit harder than Whitelock, and hit bigger, too. Coleman.

    No. 4 Lock: Eben Etzebeth versus Brodie Retallick

    OK, some people are never going to admit any lock ever outplayed Retallick, ever. But I think over the entirety of the Championship, it was Etzebeth, who offloaded more (7 to 2), broke more tackles (10 to 4), missed fewer tackles (5 to 10), and was a workhorse captain. Etzebeth.

    Eben Etzebeth South Africa Springboks Rugby Union 2017

    (MICHAEL SHEEHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    Tighthead: Sekope Kepu versus Nemo Laulala

    Tough category because of Coenie Oosthuizen’s unlucky end, but we’ll put it between the Bledisloe foes and give this to Kepu for his outstanding carries and durability.

    A tighthead should never get his arm broken! Kepu.

    Hooker: Malcolm Marx versus Gus Creevy

    The RC has really good hookers to choose from, but we’ll note that Marx and Creevy have to belong in any top four or five in the world, and only due to Dane Coles’ concussion issues, let them battle it out.

    Both were mainstay ball-carriers (over nine carries a game, each), good offloaders, tackle-breakers and turnover-winners. Marx narrowly, because of Cape Town. Marx.

    Loosehead: Beast Mtawarira versus Steven Kitshoff

    A controversial battle between a Zimbabwean and a ginger. Kitshoff got more done in fewer minutes. Kitshoff.

    So, the team: Kitshoff (SA), Marx (SA), Kepu (OZ), Etzebeth (SA), Coleman (OZ), Matera (AR), Hooper (OZ), Read (NZ), Genia (OZ), Barrett (NZ), Ioane (NZ), Beale (OZ), Crotty (NZ), Milner-Skudder (NZ), McKenzie (NZ).

    Six Kiwis, five Aussies, three South Africans, and an Argentinian.

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    The Crowd Says (165)

    • October 12th 2017 @ 11:21am
      Tooly said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

      I hope you are not going to play the ABs with this team Harry ! The only Aussie would be Kepu and perhaps McMahon at six .

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 3:53pm
        Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        I tried to pick players in the positions they played and favoured 6-game performers

    • October 12th 2017 @ 11:29am
      Bluesfan said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      So if Marx get’s picked for Capetown – then what exactly happened in Auckland where he could not hit a barn door if he tried?

      Further only 1 AB in the forward pack that you selected, for a team that went unbeaten over the championship – home and away?

      AB’s obviously have a candyfloss team of Forwards and only win their games because of their backs. How we win is beyond me – obviously with 3 Oz forwards in the above pack – come Saturday we can expect the scrum to go backwards at a great rate of knots, lose lineout ball and not be able to secure possession!

      • October 12th 2017 @ 11:33am
        Fionn said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        Marx played one poor match when the team was mentally defeated. Otherwise, he has been outstanding the entire RC.

        The All Blacks rotated their team far more than the other teams.

        • October 12th 2017 @ 3:32pm
          Bluesfan said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

          Easy to be an outstanding player when you are playing at home – top class players perform home and away – clearly Marx did not do so in Auckland.

          So considering that he played the top team twice (AB’s) for one outstanding game and one disaster – I wouldn’t call his tournament outstanding.

          Crevy on the other hand, playing in a weak pack was outstanding home and away and also had captaincy duty – so for my money he is a shoe in for a team of the tournament.

          • Roar Guru

            October 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm
            Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

            Creevy is really good. Did Marx steal your girl? Jeez! OK! We get you don’t like Saffa forwards who steal ball.

            • October 12th 2017 @ 4:57pm
              Bluesfan said | October 12th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

              Well I do recall a lot of big SA guys trying to hook into my girlfriend in Shepherd’s Bush way back in the 90’s, after drinking lot’s of 1 pound Cans of Castle Larger.

              What I don’t understand is how in a single game – a player becomes the best in the world – but everyone seems to forget how dreadful he was in Auckland (and in the Super Final if I recall correctly).

              I don’t think any of the current team apart from Etzebeth are comparable to the great SA team of 2009 – this SA team is weak as reflected by 57-0 and the results in 2016 and these results have occurred this year with B.Smith, Moody, Franks, Dagg and on Saturday Retallick all missing.

              Personally if this is the dawning of a new era in SA rugby – that would be fantastic news, as nothing compares to a SA/AB game where both teams are giving it to each other.

              However I look at this team, Super results, U20 results and it’s hard not to think that sadly SA’s beat years have gone – especially in light of the challenges that the Springboks face in actually getting a truly representative team onto the park due to Politics.

              • Roar Guru

                October 12th 2017 @ 9:31pm
                Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

                Yes, it may all be over. Three Bok teams abroad, ruining the transfer of expertise (Bismarck to Marx, Pienaar to Paige, Burger to Kriel, etc) and sub-par coaching.

                Hope not.

              • October 13th 2017 @ 5:19am
                Bluesfan said | October 13th 2017 @ 5:19am | ! Report

                Can you imagine the damage if you had Bismarck on the run on team and Marx on the bench to finish off the last 30 minutes (or vice versa), mouth watering stuff.

                And then get rid of U. Carr and throw in Vermeulen with Burger off the bench for his experience.

                Sadly from the country that produced Danie Gerber/Carel Du Plessis/Andre Jourbet – can’t do anything about the backs!

            • Roar Guru

              October 13th 2017 @ 9:05am
              Carlos the Argie said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

              I am discovering that I am not truly a Creevy fan.

              I love his play. But he takes on his shoulders too much. He can’t do everything and should learn to take his role and make the rest of the team play better.

              He appears as too cozy with the coach. He can’t be friends with the coach, he has to respect the differences in position.

              Right now, his relationship with Hourcade is his worst problem.

              Besides speaking very poor English and having huge difficulties communicating with referees.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 2:11pm
        Jeffrey said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

        Marx was the best hooker in the RC by default imo as the competition was weak. I am a huge Coles fan but Coles has not captured his pre concussion form unfortunately and TPN was good without being outstanding. Some would argue Kerevi should be named as the starting hooker but the fact that he gets pulled at the 50 minute mark works against him. Marx definitely needs to improve his throwing and as good as he was against NZ in Cape Town, not many have commented on his lay missed tackle on Havilli that led to McKenzie’s match winning try.

        • October 12th 2017 @ 2:14pm
          Jeffrey said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

          *lazy missed tackle

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 3:55pm
        Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

        The Albany LO debacle was probably equal parts Mostert and Marx. Lood ran the LO in Cape Town, and it was as smooth as the ABs.

        But really, it’s not controversial to pick Marx; he was the best opensider in the RC! Hahaha

      • October 13th 2017 @ 4:54pm
        scottd said | October 13th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

        a candy floss team of forwards???

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2017 @ 11:34am
      Kia Kaha said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      Love your work, Harry.

      Bledislie 2, Springboks ABs 2 or Springboks Wallabies 2.

      Not in keeping with the article but saved by the 2! 😉

    • October 12th 2017 @ 11:53am
      BOGGLES THE MIND said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      Hooper ???


      • October 12th 2017 @ 2:26pm
        Brian said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

        Well argued.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 3:57pm
        Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

        I’m not a fan of Hooper. But I think he played the best.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 5:19pm
        Cynical Play said | October 12th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

        that you, Marto..??

    • October 12th 2017 @ 12:58pm
      taylorman said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

      Nice Harry,
      Individually can’t really fault it and its true NZ did juggle around a bit.

      Good to see both Oz and SA chiming in, as well as some good near misses (Koroibete, Hodge, Foley, Kolisi etc)

      Love the use of superlatives…nightmare to contain, steamroll defenders and best of all how Crotty’s try has endeared itself to ‘miraculous’…bless you Harry 🙂

      For me Marx had the best test of the year by anyone, Pocock / Bismarck DP like over the ball, inspirational.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 1:37pm
        Fionn said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

        Would you say Marx was the best player of the RC overall? I think it’s hard to pick a player of the championship given how many injuries SA and NZ had, and how much NZ rotated players.

        McKenzie was very good, as was Retallick, Folau and Beale.

    • October 12th 2017 @ 1:01pm
      frisky said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

      Tell him he is dreaming
      Only one AB in the pack? A bit silly as the AB forwards were dopminant throughout the championship exept for their last game against the Boks.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 2:15pm
        Mike Julz said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        Agree on the forward pack. Should’ve have ABs in it.

        • October 12th 2017 @ 10:28pm
          Jacko said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

          Haha that would make it a Backward pack…Coz thats the direction they would be going.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 3:59pm
        Harry Jones said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

        Maybe you’re right. It’s a bit subjective…

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