It’s time to decide who the best of the tournament was. There were some obvious choices, and some not so obvious ones, but perhaps not enough All Blacks?
1 – Tony Woodcock (New Zealand) Had his troubles in the scrum at times but otherwise contributed hugely to the victory. Both Marcos Ayerza and the Beast are worthy of a mention.
2 – Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa) There can be only one! Which means Adriaan Strauss misses out. Essentially a coin toss decision here, but both are well above the curve.
3 – Juan Figallo (Argentina) Outstanding in the scrum, physical in the tight-loose. One of the best props in the world, here’s hoping he recovers from injury soon.
4 – Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) Already one of the most fearsome competitors in the world. Massive tournament that solidified him as a top dog at no4. Honourable mention to Brodie Retallick.
5 – Sam Whitelock (New Zealand) No question here, unless you choose Retallick at 5. A dominant lineout figure and huge work rate around the park.
6 – Scott Fardy (Australia) A surprise perhaps, but he put in a mountain of work behind a struggling tight five. Late bloomer to the test scene looks likely to stick around for a while.
7 – Francois Louw (South Africa) Tough on Michael Hooper, who was impressive throughout, and Pablo Matera, outstanding in three games, but Flo gets the nod for overall menace.
8 – Kieran Read (New Zealand) He does it all. Arguably the best rugby player in the world at the moment.
9 – Aaron Smith (New Zealand) Will Genia looked to be rebounding near the end, and Fourie du Preez was outstanding, but the little guy from Manawatu takes the plaudits for doing the business the whole tournament.
10 – Morne Steyn (South Africa) Had Beauden Barrett or Dan Carter played more, this might have been different, but as it is Steyn’s kicking controlled his side’s destiny. Great return to form this season.
11 – Bryan Habana (South Africa) Raises his team around him when he’s on the field, and not many wingers can do that. His twenty-odd minutes against the All Blacks sealed his selection ahead of Julian Savea.
12 – Jean de Villiers (South Africa) One of the players of the tournament. Whole hearted leadership and huge physicality.
13 – Conrad Smith (New Zealand) Still the benchmark for centre worldwide. Has earned his six month vacation.
14 – Ben Smith (New Zealand) Player of the tournament? Hard to argue otherwise. Will surely slide over to centre in the absence of namesake Conrad.
15 – Israel Dagg (New Zealand) If Mr. Folau saw more of the ball in the early matches he might be here, but Dagg is still the complete package. Not at his absolute best but still good enough to take the shirt.