Time for some light relief from Aussie rugby politics.
I’ve borrowed a bit from Brett McKay’s recent Super Rugby Championship XVs idea but turned it on its head. Instead on a XV based on units, this time you have to pick players who were never in the same unit.
Here’s how it works. Obviously Super Rugby has been going for more than 15 years, but by combining years when the same franchise has won in consecutive or in one case almost consecutive years I’ve come up with 15 teams.
You need to pick one player from each to create your best team. And because it’s a no-units team, you can’t pick partners at Super Rugby level, like Stephen Larkham and Matt Giteau in the five-eighths or Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield at lock.
Here are the 15 teams:
1. Blues 1996-97
2. Crusaders 1998-2000
3. Brumbies 2001
4. Crusaders 2002 (the perfect year!)
5. Blues 2003
6. Brumbies 2004
7. Crusaders 2005-06 and ’08
8. Bulls 2007
9. Bulls 2009-10
10. Reds 2011
11. Chiefs 2012-13
12. Waratahs 2014
13. Highlanders 2015
14. Hurricanes 2016
15. Crusaders 2017-19
A few tips to get you started. Some positions like prop or outside centre have a shortage of top players, others like wing or lock have lots. Likewise some teams have one or two standouts, whereas how do you pick between Jonah Lomu, Zinzan Brooke, Michael Jones, Olo Brown and Sean Fitzpatrick in the 1996-97 Blues, or Dan Carter and Richie McCaw in Crusaders 2005-08? Unless you go for Baby McCaw in 2002 of course!
In my team I’ve gone for leadership, mongrel and a dominance in the set piece and breakdown in the forwards, and a mixture of outrageous flair, pace and calm in the backs, perhaps at the expense of a big loosie or centre. But no 2005 Carter – there’s no substitute for the leadership of a post-2007 McCaw.
Here’s my team:
1. Greg Somerville (Crusaders 2002): Was our most capped prop.
2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes 2016): Skills and mongrel. Prototype modern hooker.
3. Olo Brown (Blues 1996): No-one will push this scrum back!
4. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs 2013): A unique combination of skills and strength.
5. Victor Matfield (Bulls 2009): Lineout and leadership. Brodie’s perfect partner.
6. Richie McCaw (captain) (Crusaders 2008): Utterly peerless.
7. George Smith (Brumbies 2001): Total class.
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders 2017): Skills, gain line, leadership, lineout.
9. Will Genia (Reds 2011): Absolutely electric that year.
10. Andrew Mehrtens (Crusaders 2000): Great head, great feet in the three-peat.
11. Bryan Habana (Bulls 2007): One of the greatest ever.
12. Matt Giteau (Brumbies 2004): Nobody touches his magic at 12.
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Warratahs 2014): Conrad-like brains at centre.
14. Joe Rokocoko (Blues 2003): World record 17 Test tries that year. Size, speed, flair.
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders 2015): Imagine his counterattack with Smokin’ Joe!
To make life easier for you I’ve shamelessly copied and amalgamated Brett’s list of teams from last week. Happy picking! Or feel free to wax lyrical about some of the players.
Adrian Cashmore, Brian Lima/Joeli Vidiri, Eroni Clarke, Lee Stensness/Johnny Ngauamo, Jonah Lomu, Carlos Spencer, Ofisa Tonu’u, Zinzan Brooke (c), Andrew Blowers/Mark Carter, Michael Jones, Leo Lafaiali’i/Charles Riechelmann, Robin Brooke, Olo Brown, Sean Fitzpatrick, Craig Dowd.
Leon McDonald/Daryl Gibson, Caleb Ralph/James Kerr, Tabai Matson, Mark Mayerhofler/Norm Berryman, Marika Vunibaka/Afato So’oalo, Andrew Mehrtens, Aaron Flynn/Justin Marshall/Ben Hurst, Ron Cribb/Steve Surridge, Scott Robertson/Angus Gardiner, Reuben Thorne, Todd Blackadder (c), Norm Maxwell, Stu Loe/Greg Feek, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville/Kevin Nepia.
Andrew Walker, Joe Roff, James Holbeck, Rod Kafer, Graeme Bond, Steve Larkham, George Gregan (c), Jim Williams, George Smith, Peter Ryan, Justin Harrison, David Giffin, Ben Darwin, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young.
Leon MacDonald, Marika Vunibaka, Mark Robinson, Aaron Mauger, Caleb Ralph, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Scott Robertson, Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne (c), Norm Maxwell, Chris Jack, Greg Feek, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville.
Doug Howlett, Rico Gear, Mils Muliaina, Sam Tuitupou, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, David Gibson, Xavier Rush (c), Daniel Braid, Justin Collins, Ali Williams, Angus MacDonald, Kees Meeuws, Keven Mealamu, Deacon Manu.
Joe Roff, Mark Gerrard, Joel Wilson, Matt Giteau, Clyde Rathbone, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Scott Fava, George Smith, Owen Finegan (c), Radike Samo, Mark Chisholm, Nic Henderson, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young.
Leon MacDonald, Rico Gear/Kade Poki, Casey Laulala/Caleb Ralph, Tim Bateman/Aaron Mauger, Scott Hamilton, Daniel Carter, Justin Marshall/Kevin Senio, Mose Tuiali’i, Richie McCaw (c), Reuben Thorne/Kieran Read, Ali Williams/Ross Filipo, Chris Jack/Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Ti’i Paulo/Corey Flynn, Dave Hewett/Wyatt Crockett.
Johan Roets, Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Derick Hougaard, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Wikus van Heerden, Pedrie Wannenburg, Victor Matfield (c), Bakkies Botha, Rayno Gerber, Gary Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Zane Kirchner, Gerhard van den Heever/Akona Ndungane, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana/François Hougaard, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann/Pedrie Wannenburg, Victor Matfield (c), Bakkies Botha/Danie Rossouw, Werner Kruger, Gary Botha/Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Jono Lance, Rod Davies, Anthony Fainga’a, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Radike Samo, Beau Robinson, Scott Higginbotham, James Horwill (c), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Fainga’a, Ben Daley.
Robbie Robinson/Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga/Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell/Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Matt Vant Levan/Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger/Hika Elliott, Toby Smith/Sona Taumalolo.
Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (c), Stephen Hoiles, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, James Lentjes, Elliot Dixon, Mark Reddish, Alex Ainley, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds.
James Marshall, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Dane Coles (c), Loni Uhila.
David Havili, Israel Dagg/Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor/Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge/Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis/Jordan Tarfua, Scott Barrett/Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sam Whitelock (c), Mitchell Dunshea, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.