The Rugby Championship has wrapped up, and as the All Blacks celebrate their defence of the prestigious tournament, let’s take a look at some of the players who stood out in their respective positions:
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Springboks) – the Beast managed to show why he’s one of the best front-rowers in the world by applying massive pressure at scrumtime as well as having some strong carries throughout the tournament, especially against Australia in Cape Town.
2. Bismark du Plessis (Springboks) – Bismarck was obviously the centre of the tournament’s most publicised controversy, however, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the Springbok hooker was incredibly influential in ball-carrying, turnovers and his defensive efforts.
3. Juan Figallo (Argentina) – the Argentine prop gave the other 3 nations uphill every time they went to a scrum and was always in the top tier of the tackle-counter for the Pumas.
4. Eben Etzebeth (Springboks) – the giant lock continued his great international reputation against the best in the world, and Etzebeth’s tackles often drove players back and his carries (most notably his storming run against New Zealand) showed his diversity as a ball-carrier.
5. Patricio Albacete (Argentina) – Albacete managed to rack up huge amount of tackles in every game he played in, showing why he is the enforcer in the Pumas’ pack. He did little wrong and exhibited his experience with his calm demeanour and dedicated approach.
6. Liam Messam (All Blacks) – the Rugby Championship was a huge battle of loose forwards, but Liam Messam just managed to trump the others in terms of his sheer versatility. Messam accumulated huge meters in every game, scored twice against South Africa and showed his ability to create turnovers in high-pressure situations.
7. Willem Alberts (Springboks) – Alberts was immense whenever he was on the field, always breaking the first tackle and dominating other players when on defence. Alberts was also vital at the breakdown, often clearing out multiple players when he hit a ruck.
8. Kieran Read (All Blacks) – Read proved that he is the world’s best number 8 with phenomenal performances week-in and week-out. His try assists, tackles and ability to link up with the impressive All Blacks backs is unrivalled.
9. Aaron Smith (All Blacks) – the pint-sized distributor was fast to every breakdown, gave great service and wasn’t afraid to take on the line himself. Smith continues to set the bar of what’s expected of a solid number 9.
10. Nicolas Sanchez (Argentina) – the Pumas’ flyhalf continued his great form throughout the tournament, racking up some of the best metres gained in his team, and having a tremendous amount of line-breaks. His goal-kicking was also great when he got the chance and made some great chases and defensive efforts.
11. Julian Savea (All Blacks) – Willie le Roux was great, but the big All Black winger was unstoppable throughout the Championship campaign, however it was his work to put other players into space that overshadowed his own try-scoring efforts. Savea linked excellently when he came into the midfield and was solid on defence.
12. Jean de Villiers (Springboks) – the Springbok captain is playing some of the best rugby of his career and excelled in every facet of the game. His leadership is his greatest trait though and de Villiers showed he knows how to motivate his team by leading by example.
13. Marcelo Bosch (Argentina) – the elusive outside centre often broke the first tackle and has an incredible knack to slip through gaps. Bosch’s try in the final match against the Wallabies was right reward for his efforts.
14. Ben Smith (All Blacks) – Habana comes in a close second to Smith, who was stellar from the first match to the last. Ben Smith lived up to his “Ghost” nickname, by slipping through tackles, sliding through gaps and constantly causing trouble for defences. His record-breaking try-scoring rate doesn’t even capture the talent of Smith.
15. Israel Folau (Wallabies) – Folau has had a breakout season since his switch from league to union, and every time the tall fullback got into space, he made it count. His hat-trick against the Pumas showed that the best is yet to come from this exciting talent.