Team of the Year 2012

2012-12-05-001The best of 2012! How many All Blacks have made the cut?

1 – Cian Healy (Ireland) Now firmly entrenched amongst the very best looseheads in world rugby, he had a massive year winning a Heineken Cup with Leinster and starting all ten tests for his country. A certain Lions tourist and clear favourite for the no1 jersey.

2 – Adriaan Strauss (South Africa) A tough position to choose with several good players but no obvious standout, the Cheetahs captain enjoyed his finest international season, filling in superbly for Bismarck du Plessis and edging the likes of his cousin Richardt Strauss and resurgent French dynamo Dimitri Szarzewski.

3 – Dan Cole (England) An absolute rock for club and country, started all twelve tests and is now arguably the best tighthead in the world. Only Adam Jones can possibly keep him from the starting Lions spot.

4 – Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) What an introduction to international rugby! A more than capable replacement for Bakkies Botha, he started all but one test in his maiden Springbok campaign and won a Currie Cup with his province. Expect him to feature in best-of teams prominently for the next decade.

5 – Pascal Pape (France) Stepped in as captain for Thierry Dusautoir in the French side and looked as if he made for the job. Huge physicality and presence, he is at last enjoying an injury-free run.

6 – Liam Messam (New Zealand) With Jerome Kaino off to pastures new and several key northern hemisphere contenders injured, the Chiefs co-captain had his best ever year winning a Super Rugby title and securing a starting spot with the All Blacks. He seems to have at last matured and found consistency to go with the talent we all knew he had.

7 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand) Honourable mention to the huge breakout year for Michael Hooper, but Sir Richie is the man once again. Here’s to hoping he lasts until the next World Cup.

8 – Kieran Read (New Zealand) Has somewhat quietly gone about establishing himself as the prototype for the modern number eight. Captained his country for the first time, and how he was overlooked for the IRB player of the year award is anyone’s guess.

9 – Kahn Fotuali’i (Samoa) Not a banner year for scrumhalves, but the former Hawke’s Bay man gets the nod for his outstanding end-of-year form, and winning a domestic title with Ospreys in May.

10 – Aaron Cruden (New Zealand) A controversial selection perhaps, but a Super Rugby title combined with five winning starts for the All Blacks is no small accomplishment. Dan Carter, Freddie Michalak, and Jonny Sexton all had good years as well.

11 – Bryan Habana (South Africa) After being written off by some so-called pundits, we were treated to some truly world class finishing from one of the best in the business once more. Despite missing out on the November tour, he did manage to win his second Currie Cup title along the way.

12 – Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand) Only played half the year but it’s simply impossible to suggest that there was a more influential midfielder to his team’s success during that time. Added a Super Rugby title to his World Cup win, and looked absolutely dominant for the All Blacks before heading to Japan. The rugby world awaits his return.

13 – Conrad Smith (New Zealand) With a certain Irishman out of commission his main challengers were Jonathan Davies and Manu Tuilagi, but the man from Hawera remains the best all-round centre with his distribution and defensive skills unmatched.

14 – Cory Jane (New Zealand) Bested only by countryman Julian Savea in the try-scoring sweepstakes, the former fullback combined genuine footballing skills with absolute safety under the high ball. A terrific year from one of the world’s best.

15 – Israel Dagg (New Zealand) Started all but one test for the All Blacks and displayed all the best characteristics of a modern fullback. Only Kurtley Beale, exiled to the flyhalf jersey this season, comes close in terms of pure attacking prowess.

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  • Arrow

    Good call on Fotuali’i, not only was he excellent in November he also saved Samoa from 16-0 down against Japan in June with a great performance.

    Changes I would make to your side would be Carter ahead of Cruden, Lydiate ahead of Messam who was quality in the 6 Nations.

    Also I personally find Cole a tadoverrated, he’s a very good player, but not the world’s best as some build him up to be. I think Cencus Johnston who had an immense November for Samoa pulverising the Canadian and Welsh scrums and setting up a try with a grubber against France, as well as in the Top 14 destroying Toulon’s scrum in the Top 14 final and being one of the best tightheads in that league deserves to be in this team ahead of Cole.

    England’s scrum came off worse against Adam Jones and Wales in the 6 Nations, and also didn’t get the dominance that was hoped for against Australia who had been destroyed the previous week by France. Cole also greedily blew one of the biggest overlaps seen (

    Another change I would have is a left field call for Vladimir Ostroushko of Russia to be included at #14. He’s been a standout in a dismal Russian side this year and I’m sure would make hay if he were in an All Blacks side. But Cory Jane has also been great too, so I have no problem with him there.

  • Bryan

    Carter/Cruden was a toss up for me, Carter is obviously the best in the world at no10 but his domestic rugby was limited and Cruden excelled everywhere.

    Lydiate is a different sort of player to Messam and really only had a handful of games to put his hand up. If his fitness allows he’ll be a Lion, but has some good competition for the no6 test jersey.

    We’ll agree to disagree on Cole, he is top class. Bad decision on that play but it was ostensibly meaningless. Johnston is a good suggestion and I rate him highly but loses out on overall contribution because he rarely lasts more than 45-50 minutes a game.

    Ostroushko is a good player among some excellent outside backs for Russia, but he is a left winger, and his particular set of skills, namely powerful running and finishing, are bested by Savea, North, and Visser. I think Simplikevich will be better than Ostroushko, if he isn’t already.

    • Arrow

      Ostroushko is better than Simplikevich currently. Offers much more around the field and has a far better work rate, Simplikevich can go missing at times. Considering Ostroushko is stuck in a team that has been woeful this year, the fact he has stood out is even more impressive.

      Ostroushko offers good hands and can create tries as well (see link below), he also scored one of the best tries of the year against Spain. So based on performances this year, I would consider him ahead of North (average in November), Visser (cost Scotland with his tackling), and would certainly be a contender for team of the year.