Rugby Championship: Team of Round 1
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, SA Rugby hands out praise to the stars of the Rugby Championship's opening round.
15 Willie le Roux (South Africa): Always a threat with ball in hand in South Africa's victory over Argentina in Soweto. Le Roux always looked dangerous from the back, winning 100 metres on attack. Was hardly tested on defence but made his tackles when required and was safe under the high ball.
14: Ben Smith (New Zealand): The man from Otago was a revelation in the All Blacks' victory against the Wallabies and scored a hat-trick of tries for his effort. Always looked for work and won 66 metres on attack and caught the eye with a solid defensive effort.
13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand): Another top class display from the Hurricanes skipper who also managed to cross the whitewash against Australia. Smith's decision-making was superb and his experience proved invaluable in seeing off the Wallabies. Beats out JJ Engelbrecht who was one of the Springboks' best backs in Soweto.
12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa): Impressed with his direct running and allround game management in Soweto. De Villiers' captaincy was also impressive, and he was one of the Springboks' leading attackers with 89 metres gained, and scored a deserved try.
11 Bryan Habana (South Africa): The Toulon-bound wing proved a handful on attack and extended his try-scoring record for the Springboks with his 51st five-pointer. Was always looking for work which saw him setting off on several attacking runs, making 70 metres in the process.
10 Aaron Cruden (New Zealand): Stood in for Dan Carter but the world's leading pointscorer was hardly missed as Cruden notched 20 points. Hardly put a foot wrong on attack, gaining 60 metres, but also put his body on the line on defence with nine hits made.
9 Fourie du Preez (South Africa): Came on for 30 minutes against los Pumas but showed during that time why he is so highly rated by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. His vision and decision-making was superb and he set up several of his team-mates' tries. Will be missed on the Boks' overseas tour. Aaron Smith also impressed for the All Blacks.
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand): Another solid allround display from the man who is now widely regarded as the world's best number eight. Read did plenty of the dirty work,hitting the rucks and mauls with ferocity and also did well on defence with eight tackles made. Just edges out Duane Vermeulen who carried well for the Springboks.
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand): The All Blacks skipper proved to be a thorn in the flesh of Australia. Led his troops well and showed that he hasn't lost any of his predatory skills at the breakdown. Just edges out Michael Hooper, who was easily the Wallabies' best player, and Francois Louw, who dominated at the breakdown against Argentina.
6 Steven Luatua (New Zealand): Showed that he has the potential to reach the levels of his more illustrious back-row team-mates with a hard-working effort in Sydney. Was a late replacement for Liam Messam but was not overawed by the occasion and did well especially on defence where he snuffed out several Wallabies attacks with 10 hits.
5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): Has transferred his fine form for the Crusaders into the Test arena, and he was the first name down in our tigh-five. Whitelock was the All Blacks' best defender, with 13 tackles made, and also won a handful of line-outs.
4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): Another solid display from the 21-year-old who is playing with maturity beyond his years. The Stormers stalwart has grown into his role as the Springboks' enforcer and did not take a backward step against the physical Argentinians and made 34 metres with ball in hand.
3 Jannie du Plessis (South Africa): Gave a strong scrummaging display and also impressed on defence, especially around the fringes of the rucks and mauls.
2 Adriaan Strauss (South Africa): Another fine performance from the Cheetahs captain which saw him winning the official man-of-the-match award. Strauss carried well, scoring a try and caught the eye, once again, with his accurate line-out throwing.
1 Tony Woodcock (New Zealand): New Zealand's strong man proved a handful in the scrums against the Wallabies but also impressed with his general play and on defence where he made six tackles.