Select a Southern Hemisphere side to play Lions
December 13, 2012, 10:34:48
The Lions tour is the second biggest event in the rugby union world, just after the Rugby World Cup in importance.
To players in the Southern Hemisphere, the Lions tour may hold more import than a World Cup, as it only ever reaches a host nation’s shores once every 12 years.
A theoretical Southern Hemisphere tour to the Lions’ nations (and possibly France) has been thrown around. Taking it a step further, I’ve drawn up what I think would be the strongest match day 23 (heh, going to have to get used to that) from the Rugby Championship teams.
15. Israel Dagg. Arguably the best 15 in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. Streets ahead of the likes of Kurtley Beale and Zane Kirchener.
14. JP Pietersen. Based on form in the Super Rugby competition this year. Included ahead of Cory Jane and Adam Ashley-Cooper as I felt these two are solid and strong finishers, but not capable of creating a try-scoring opportunity out of nothing on their own.
13. Conrad Smith. Best 13 in the world in my opinion. A large amount of the All Blacks’ backline success can be attributed to his astute reading of the opportunities on offer. Also reads defensive situations accurately. Expect Smith to be the lynchpin of this backline.
12. Ma’a Nonu. In drawing up this backline, I realised how low Southern Hemisphere 12 stocks are. Nonu earns this starting spot more due to the relatively poor options otherwise, such as Pat Mccabe, Berrick Barnes, Jean de Villiers and Santiago Fernández. Nonu’s combinations with 10 and 13 are well established, so not a poor choice.
11. Bryan Habana. South African player of the year and rediscovering form. Included ahead of the likes of Ioane (who is out of form the last two seasons or so) and Savea (who I feel finishes opportunities created by others well but has not shown ability create for himself).
10. Dan Carter. Obvious choice. First name I penned in. Still the best in his position in the world.
9. Will Genia. Poor run of form and injuries this year, possibly due to huge workload last year. Best in his position in the world last year, fairly easy choice.
8. Kieran Reid. Arguably the best 8 in the world at the moment. Consistent performances of a high level. Handles all the responsibilities of an 8 with distinction.
7. Richie McCaw (c). 100 wins under the belt. Master of the dark arts. Jedi Master. Second name penned in. (c) next to his name was an obvious choice too.
6. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. Kept out of the number 8 position by Reid. But as shown over the weekend, he delivers more of the same from the blindside. Los Pumas’ standout player in my opinion.
5. Eben Etsebeth. Enforcer in the mould of Bakkies Botha. Developing into a great lineout option too.
4. Luke Romano. Had a great season in the Super competition this year and hasn’t really had an off day as far as I can remember.
3. Jannie du Plessis. Included mainly due to combination with other front row players. Solid scrummager. May require McCaw to go upside his head every so often to curb his temper.
2. Bismark du Plessis. Injuries have kept him off the playing field in the second half of this year. Bismark was devastating for the Sharks at the start of the year and functions as a second fetcher. Scrummages like a demon too.
1. Beast Mtwarriwa. Included for sheer intimidation factor. Shoulder-pressing a 120kg lock has that effect. Encourages fan participation. Also a great scrummager and effective with ball in hand.
16. Stephen Moore.To be honest, a coin-toss between Moore and Andrew Hore. Eventually went with Moore due to his relative youth and solid showing in the Super rugby competition.
17. Tony Woodcock.On the bench for scrummaging ability and work in the tight aspects of open play.
18. Owen Franks. On the Bench for his solid scrummaging technique.
19. James Horwill. If fit. Otherwise Sam Whitelock.
20. Willem Alberts. Ability to dominate collisions and secure go-forward ball will be crucial in the heavier playing conditions of Europe.
21. Aaron Smith. Second best 9 in the Southern Hemisphere.
22. Gonzalo Camacho. Defensive work against more fancied opponents was outstanding in the Rugby Championship. Excellent finisher to boot.
23. Juan Martín Hernández. Can cover 10 an 15 with distinction.
I’ve noticed that this team seems a little light on Wallaby representation. However, the only player I felt guilty about leaving out was David Pocock. That said though, if I was forced to include him, it would be on the bench in place of Willem Alberts.
I feel Bismark du Plessis offers enough by way of fetching in loose play to not be overly concerned about the lack of fetcher cover should McCaw’s body finally breakdown.
Unfortunately, due to the already huge workload faced by professional rugby players, this team will probably never be given the opportunity to take to the park.
However, imagine this team playing a Lions team. We would finally be able to put to rest which hemisphere plays the better rugby (except for the French, who are a hemisphere on their own.)
Some corrections - Louw before Lobbe. (I cant understand how the world's best number 6 is being overlooked).Vermuelen before Read!! You are playing against a Lions 8 and no show ponies are needed!!!! Ditto Alberts versus Mcaaw. The loose trio selected would get thumped as was the wee abs backrow against England.
Surely there is a better outside center than ou Conrad! Play Jean if necessary
Horwill before Romano.