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 the Super Rugby round.
Without further ado, here comes our offering - be sure to send in your own 15-1 team selections.
15 Israel Dagg (Crusaders) - The All Black full-back was a strong presence throughout, but it was his 58th minute try that sealed his selection. Having just conceded a seven-pointer the Crusaders needed to hit back and up stepped Dagg to weave his magic, cutting through a string of Chiefs defenders as he dived over close to the touchline for the score.
14 Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) - A menace on attack, Masaga opened up the semi-final with his second half effort. Seemingly with nothing on the speedster cut back towards the traffic and scorched through the Crusaders big men on his way over the whitewash.
13 JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls) - The Bulls centre ended what has been a strong season with another dominant performance. Jan Serfontein on his inside may be the boy wonder, but Engelbrecht is proving himself to be dynamite in the midfield. He rounded off some good, patient build-up work from the Bulls to open his side's account, handing off Henry Speight as he went over in the corner.
12 Christian Leali'ifano (Brumbies) - Aside from one early miss, the Wallaby centre was on target from the tee and in a game as tight as Saturday's, one can't overstate the importance of a high conversion rate. It's not often that Morne Steyn is out-kicked, particularly on his own turf, but Leali'ifano did the business.
11 Henry Speight (Brumbies) - Not wearing the same number that he turned out in on Saturday, but for a sublime piece of skill that set up the Brumbies' first try, a space is made for Speight. Having broken through the defence, Speight beat three Bulls defenders (including Bjorn Basson who was the victim of a powerful hand-off) before offloading behind his back to send Jesse Mogg over in the corner. Sheer brilliance. A pity he got a taste of his own medicine for the Engelbrecht try...
10 Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) - Went head-to-head against Dan Carter and got the better of his more illustrious opponent. Cruden's intercept try proved decisive but he also impressed with his distribution and option taking. Also defended well with ten tackles made. Edges out Matt Toomua who had a fine all-round game for the Brumbies.
9 Nic White (Brumbies) - Played well in only his second match since returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. White linked expertly with his forwards and took plenty of pressure off Toomua with some long-range kicks into touch.
8 Kieran Read (Crusaders) - Another polished display from the Crusaders number eight in a losing cause. Read carried well with 45 metres on attack but also impressed with his leadership, especially when his side looked dead and buried after Cruden's try. Also impressed on defence and won his fair share of line-outs.
7 George Smith (Brumbies) - The 33-year-old played a leading role in his side's thrilling victory over the Bulls. Apart from dominating at the breakdowns, Smith was a willing ball carrier and also solid on defence. Also won the official man-of-the-match award in Pretoria. His best game since returning to Super Rugby.
6 Liam Messam (Chiefs) - The All Black flank was at the forefront of the Chiefs' defensive effort with sixteen hits. This was especially significant in the closing stages of the game when the Crusaders were trying desperately to regain the lead.
5 Scott Fardy (Brumbies) - Has been a tireless grafter in recent weeks for the Canberra outfit and was again prominent in their semi-final. Playing in possibly the most under-rated lock partnership in the competition alongside Sam Carter, both locks contributed to a strong scrum early on and were busy around the park. Fully deserved his recent call-up to the Wallabies 40-man training squad.
4 Craig Clarke (Chiefs) - Connacht have arguably done the best bit of business in the PRO12 during the off-season, with the Chiefs co-captain leading by example once again as he covets back-to-back Super Rugby titles. His running game was on show against the Crusaders as he galloped through the visiting defence and with sixteen tackles also racked up, he was the first name down in our tight five.
3 Ben Alexander (Brumbies) - Following a disappointing final Lions Test against Alex Corbisiero, Alexander has bounced back with solid performances in recent Super Rugby outings. Definitely got the number on Dean Greyling, which played a major role in the Brumbies' eventual victory.
2 Stephen Moore (Brumbies) - Re-affirmed his position as one of the top three hookers in world rugby on Saturday as the Australian got through a great deal of work. Jake White clearly knows Moore's worth to the side and subsequently stuck with his man for the full 80 minutes - the only hooker to do so in the semis. Hika Elliot will have to up his performance a great deal in Waikato this weekend.
1 Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders) - Quietly going about his business in recent weeks, making our line-up in successive rounds. Crockett is offering a great deal in open play and was again prominent with five go-forwards complimenting his solid scrummaging against the huge Ben Tameifuna.