Team of the Week
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, we thought it was only right to hand out praise to the stars of Super Rugby, Round 20.
Without further ado, here comes our offering - be sure to send in your own 15-1 team selections.
15 James Marshall (Hurricanes) - Ben Smith, like the Highlanders, seemed to only play the first-half but for what it's worth, it was an impressive one. Meanwhile, Odwa Ndungane was excellent for the Sharks against a weakened Kings outfit, with that opposition leading partly to Marshall getting our 15 jersey. Marshall was impressive at full-back but also when he was asked to move into number 10 as he barked the orders well.
14 Cooper Vuna (Rebels) - Moved out of position due to the form of a player in Perth, Vuna was found a spot after his two-try goodbye for the Rebels. Both tries were well taken before he gave a beautiful overhand offload to Bryce Hegarty that ultimately won the game against the Highlanders.
13 Tom English (Rebels) - Got a double against the Highlanders and was all heart in that win, despite being out of his usual wing position. Meanwhile, Rob Horne was unlucky to be on the losing side. Yes it was a dire derby game in Sydney but Horne did a lot of unseen work, racking up 73 metres and 12 tackles, but it wasn't enough to see off his countryman.
12 Jean de Villiers (Stormers) - Yellow carded but his strong work heavily outweighed that indiscretion. De Villiers scored a try and set up one while leadership on the field was another string to his bow. Worth a mention - as speculation over whether or not Ma'a Nonu will return to the Hurricanes continues - is Reymond Lee-Lo, who is giving head coach Mark Hammett reason not to sign the All Black. Lee-Lo has been superb in recent weeks after getting his run ahead of Tim Bateman and can definitely continue his rise in the ITM Cup.
11 Nick Cummins (Force) - A mention for Zac Guildford firstly but it had to be Cummins for the jersey as the Honey Badger feasted on the out-of sorts Brumbies. Over 60 metres made but it was a clean break and offload that stole the show, allowing Junior Rasolea to score.
10 Gary van Aswegan (Stormers) - The question of where this Stormers team was two months ago can also be attached to the young fly-half. Playing second fiddle to big-money signing Elton Jantjies for the majority of the year, Van Aswegan was finally given a chance and did not disappoint. Outstanding in his game management while he attacked the gainline at every opportunity, giving the Stormers backline a chance to finally threaten.
9 Andy Ellis (Crusaders) - In some respects the forgotten number nine of All Black rugby. Sitting behind Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ellis has been excellent this season in combination with Willi Heinz and continued that form on Friday. He scored a try and came close with another effort as the Crusaders march on.
8 Ben McCalman (Force) - One of the main cogs in the Force's strong forward effort, McCalman was impressive in all aspects against the Brumbies. He was the team's main line-out option, ran strongly and caused the opposition defence plenty of problems. McCalman also threw in a vital end-of-half try effort for good measure on Saturday.
7 Deon Fourie (Stormers) - After two man-of-the-match performances on the trot it's hard to believe Fourie is first and foremost a hooker and not a flanker where he has plied his trade of late. The Stormers flank was once again a dominant presence against the Bulls. He was strong in the tight and the loose against the Bulls, making more tackles than any of his team-mates (18) as well as making more runs (12) and betting more defenders (three) than any other player in blue. Given his form, a permanent switch to flank seems the way to go.
6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes) - The most-contested position in our selection sees Shields come out on top, seeing off Jacques Potgieter, Jean Deysel and Matt Hodgson. Potgieter and Deysel were carrying machines on Saturday while Hodgson led by example in victory but for his all-round game, Shields is our man. The Rugby Championship awaits.
5 Kane Douglas (Waratahs) - Did a lot of the dog for his side with seventeen tackles on the board, combining well with Sitaleki Timani before Will Skelton, who is worth a mention on his own with 44 metres and four offloads in 30 minutes, helped to finally see off the Reds.
4 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) - Was a rock in an impressive pack as the Stormers took the bragging rights against the Bulls. Etzebeth thrived on the physical aspects that were always going to come with playing against the Bulls and he, like his team-mates, came out on top.
3 Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs) - Big Ben struck twice against the Blues. The earth-shuddering prop was strong for the Chiefs as he grabbed a double to put some pressure on coach Dave Rennie going into the semi-finals. Should he go for Ben Afeaki or Tameifuna? A mention for the hard-working Angus Ta'avao who put in one heck of a shift for the Blues.
2 Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers) - Injury and the presence of Tiaan Liebenberg and Deon Fourie meant that Scarra Ntubeni's season got off to a slow start, but the young hooker has certainly finished strongly. Ntubeni put in some strong runs on Saturday but crucially provided the accuracy at line-out time that the Stormers have at times lacked in 2013. Even against a much-lauded Bulls line-out, the Stormers number two found his jumpers and in addition was on hand in the loose to make good yardage.
1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks) - One of those to benefit from the loose nature of the contest against the Kings, Mtawarira showed deft footwork and impressive speed off the mark to dot down for one of the Sharks' 10 tries. Powerful at scrum time, the prop formed part of a dominant Sharks effort that ensured the hosts finished their season on a high.