Team of the Rugby Championship
Now that the dust has settled in the southern hemisphere, SARugby.com's journalists have selected their Team of the 2013 Rugby Championship.
What a week it was as the final round of action lived up to its billing, particularly at Ellis Park where the All Blacks beat the Springboks.
Of course it was difficult selecting our XV of the tournament but we have finally settled on a side that includes seven players from New Zealand.
Before we reveal it though, here is our Team of Round Five. Please send in your selections.
Team of the Week: 15 Israel Folau (Australia), 14 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 13 Marcelo Bosch (Argentina), 12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa), 11 Joe Tomane (Australia), 10 Quade Cooper (Australia), 9 Will Genia (Australia), 8 Kieran Read (New Zealand), 7 Francois Louw (South Africa), 6 Liam Messam (New Zealand), 5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi (Argentina), 2 Stephen Moore (Australia), 1 Tony Woodcock (New Zealand).
Team of the Rugby Championship
15 Israel Folau (Australia) - Arguably the most exciting player in world rugby. Folau's hat-trick against Argentina underlined what an important presence he is in that Wallaby backline when given enough ball to work with. He now has seven tries in nine Tests for Australia - with many more to come. What a talent.
14 Ben Smith (New Zealand) - The player of the tournament, without question. 2013 has been Ben Smith's year, both with his form for the Highlanders in Super Rugby and now with the All Blacks. Smith has now set the record for the most tries in a Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations season with eight. He also made the most clean breaks. A mention for Willie Le Roux, who made an impressive 430 metres in the tournament which was 86 more than the next best player.
13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand) - The ageing back has still got the swagger that has made him one of the best centres in the world for so long. 42 carries and several key passes put Smith in ahead of Marcelo Bosch, who scored tries against the Springboks and Wallabies and was Argentina's best back.
12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa) - Right at this best, De Villiers grabbed the bonus-point try for South Africa at Ellis Park and for a moment the whole country went delirious. The Springboks might have fallen short in the end but De Villiers was electric all tournament, beating more defenders than any other player (20) and making eight clean breaks, second only to Ben Smith. An influential captain.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand) - Bryan Habana's two tries against New Zealand were outstanding, but Savea edges him out for the tournament. Two tries were wrapped around 18 defenders beaten, along with Ben Smith and Folau, but more metres made (329) than his fellow All Black wing. More than the stats though, Savea is just so difficult to contain.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand) - Morné Steyn improved. Dan Carter didn't play enough. Quade Cooper continually got better and nobody, bizarrely, made more tackles than Nicolás Sanchez. But the young Barrett is our pick for the impact he made in both games against South Africa, including the try to seal the Rugby Championship minutes after being bounced by Jean de Villiers. The kid has guts.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand) - The third Smith and fourth All Black in our backline continued to impress as racks up the caps in front of Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Fourie du Preez's performances might have won him this spot had he not only played half the matches, but he just misses out.
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand) - The best player in world rugby right now? Few would argue against it as Read continuously raises the bar for things a forward can do that a centre would be proud of. Last week his devastating skills and pace in the wide channels caused the Springboks plenty of bother but it's not just about that recent 80 minutes, Read has been outstanding throughout the Rugby Championship and thoroughly deserves his spot here.
7 Michael Hooper (Australia) - The Wallaby backs found life difficult during the competition due to their pack coming off second best more often than not. Hooper though was the exception to the eight as his performances in attack and defence stood out. David Pocock has a job displacing him.
6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina) - Missed the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship and his return to the side against New Zealand once again revealed the quality this player posssesses. Lobbe was tireless in the final three games the Pumas played and is a true leader of men.
5 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand) - Came of age this past year after his Test debut against Ireland in 2012. The 22-year-old is forming an outstanding lock partnership with Sam Whitelock and that proved critical in the All Blacks' 100 percent record in the tournament. Moves from jersey four.
4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) - As mentioned, it's two number fours for us in the second-row department as this Bok lines up with Retallick. Etzebeth is five months younger than the All Black as our youthful combination boasts masses of workrate. Rucks, hits, and runs, Etzebeth ticks all of the boxes and looks set for a long career in the green and gold jersey.
3 Juan Figallo (Argentina) - Unanimous call. Montpellier and Argentina have a gem of a tighthead who is still only 25 years of age. Superb.
2 Adriaan Strauss (South Africa) - In our eyes, the Springboks have the best two hookers in world rugby at the moment. Strauss played more minutes than Bismarck du Plessis but that isn't the reason for his inclusion. Strauss was outstanding throughout and one of those honest players who his respective coaches, Naka Drotske and Heyneke Meyer, know will give 100 percent every time he wears the team jersey. Strauss scored a couple of tries too.
1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina) - And last but by no means least, Ayerza is included alongside Strauss and team-mate Figallo after putting in outstanding shift after shift for the Pumas. Like Figallo, the Leicester Tigers loosehead got the better of all who he came up against as the Argentinian scrum enhanced its already glowing reputation.
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