It’s Movember again and the Big Three of the Southern hemisphere teams are busy dominating their counterparts in North once more.. Well, kinda.. Wot ta hell is going on with the Wallabies?? First they got lucky against Wales after being brutalized in the scrums and then they coming up way short against the Pomps & Munster.. And we think Ou Pietertjie is under pressure, one HAVE to wonder just for how long the Wobblies are going to keep up with Deans..
But that’s not what this blog is about.. The time is nigh when we’ll soon found out who’ll be voted the best of the best.. The All Blacks will probably be winners in most of the categories & to a certain extend, deservedly so.. You see, it’s the IRB player of the year award I’m worried about.. Last year the Boks won team of the year, P-Divvy was coach of the year, & Fourie du Preez player of the year.. Wait, no that doesn’t right.. The BEST PLAYER of the BEST TEAM coached by the BEST COACH didn’t win the award.. That honor went to NZ skipper Richie McCaw.. Makes sense doesn’t it..
So maybe this year the IRB would maybe continue trend of rewarding the best player of ANY team (no matter how successful or unsuccessful the team was) & give award to maybe a Guthro Steenkamp? Or any other player that played very well for his respective team that is NOT the team of year or was drilled by the coach of the year.. Yeah right.. McCaw is going to win the award again, which is actually sad coz another New Zealander has been a revelation this season & that Mils Muliaina. He didn’t play that much in the Super 14 but came the international season, the fullback was nearly unstoppable. It will be kindof a feel good story should the Chiefs captain win the prestigious award and maybe the IRB will surprise me, but I doubt that. Either that, or they surprise me again like they did when they gave the award to McCaw instead of FdP last year. Or give it to one the Frenchies.. They won something this year, didn’t they??
So with my throat now cleared, I’ll give you my Best of the South with some honorable mentions included. The team is based on the Super 14 (the games I watched) the June & Trinations tests as well as the couple of November tests already played. I’ll try my best to be as unbiased as I possibly can be but I’m not keeping any promises:
Loosehead: Guthro Steenkamp:
It’s a actually a good thing that Guthro got injured.. Yeah I said it.. He was in scintillating form in 2010 but was in need of some rest. Beast has been playing the cold North on fire this November and should both these guys be fit next year, I definitely don’t wana be in P-Divvy’s shoes. Nonetheless, even though he played for a losing team, IRB player of the year nomination should be the least the Bulls no.1 should get.
Honorable mentions: Ben Alexander & Tony Woodcock. The guys scored so many tries in the Super 14, he made his backs blush. If not injured, who knows what the Wallaby frontrow could’ve achieved. Saying Woodcock had a solid 2010 would be an understatement. That’s it.
Hooker: Saia Fainga’a
There wasn’t really a hooker that set the world alight this year in the South and the only player that came close to that was Saia. He didn’t play that well for the Wobblies as he did for the Reds but I guess, just the fact that he got the Wallabie call up should tell you that he can be proud of his 2010.
Honorable mentions: Too many to name
Tighthead: The Franks Bros
Well actually Owen Franks.. But his brother Ben did play a couple of the games for the AB’s. Again, due to the lack of other standouts, & because Owen was solid enough to keep his brother, Afoa & Somerville out the best team of 2010’s starting lineup, he gets my vote.
Honorable mentions: Cant think of any
Lock (nr.4) Brad Thorn
One have to wonder who really would’ve owned this spot had Bakkies not gone Zidane on Jimmy Cowan coz he played well for the Bulls and playing very well for the Boks on tour. But Thorn has taken advantage of Botha’s absence to stamp his authority on the no.4 spot in the south.
Lock (nr.5) Victor Matfield
The guy led the Bulls to a consecutive Super 14 title, is currently the most capped Springbok EVER and is 2 wins away from leading the Boks to that elusive Grand Slam. Did I miss anything?? Oh yes.. this 33year old lock can still chip & chase as well as do a dummy pass.
Honorable mention: Anthony Boric: Matfield didn’t have that great of a tri nations, probably coz NZ and Aus denied him to rule coz of quick throw-inns. But Boric really stood up in the absence of Ali Williams.
Loosefoward (nr. 6) Schalk Burger
Mind you Jerome Kaino & Elsom wasn’t that bad this year but Burger led his Stormers superbly to the Super 14 final for the first time in their history and was rare shining light for the Boks in a forgettable tri nations. And when last was this guy yellow carded??
Honorable mentions: Rocky Elsom & Jerome Kaino
Loosefoward (nr. 7) Richie McCaw
In his next life, this guy should come back a cat coz of the lives he has at the breakdown point. But hell, we can’t blame the All Black captain for referees being scared of him & his uncle Paddy O’Brien. But the All Blacks have been dominating in 2010 and McCaw’s leadership and gameplay is a big reason for that.
Honorable mentions: David Pocock. Remember how Schalk burst onto the scene in 2004?? Well, 2010 is Pocock’s 2004. Enough said.
Eightman: Keiran Read
The All Black had no peer in the tri nations, yes Spies & Vermeulen were awesome in the Super 14 but in the international season (esp. in Vermeulen’s case) they were no where to be found.
Honorable mention:; Cant think of any
Scrumhalf: Will Genia
No surprises here. Genia is probably best the Wobblies’ best scrummy since Gregan decided to put down his crutches. He followed up a breakout super14 season onto the international scene with some brilliant performances drawing comparisons to the legendary bleskop in the process.
Honorable mentions: Fourie du Preez & Francois Hougaard. If there’s one the Boks & Morne Steyn realized & learned the hard way this season, it’s that they’re just not the same without PdP!! Hougaard has shown that there is life after Bulls vice-capt. But the Boks will definitely need du Preez even if it is for just one more season.
Flyhalf: Dan Carter
I was tempted to go for Quade Cooper and if this team was based on Super14 only, he probably would’ve won by a landslide. But Carter has shown once again this year that class is permanent & if I was an All Black supporter I’d be holding my breath every time this guy and McCaw runs onto the field. Just look what happened when we lost FdP.
Honorable mention: Quade Cooper
Wing (nr.11) Gio Aplon
There were a couple of other guys I could’ve mentioned here and ironically Gio played mostly on 14 & 15 but this guy had to be in my team. He never let his team down no matter where he played and you don’t get to be voted player of the year by your mates by just being average.
Honorable mentions: Drew Mitchell & Joe Rokocoko were probably the best 11’s in the South this year.
Centre (nr.12) Ma’a Nonu
Sonny Bill Williams must be giving the Wellington centre some sleepless nights but he had a pretty good year and in my book beat Juan de Jongh based on 2 reasons: team results & de Jongh played 13 as well.
Honorable mentions: Juan de Jongh quickly formed a formidable combination with Fourie and then had to go back to 13 when JdV came. If fit, a MUST in the Bok 22. I would’ve mentioned Prince Charming of the Bulls but this team isn’t based on Super 14 alone. Sonny Bill Williams. Yeah, he’s only 2 games so far, but what games they were!!
Centre (nr.13) Conrad Smith
Another All Black having sleepless nights but just like his partner was a cut above the rest this year. Can’t actually wait to see who Graham Henry’s starting 12 & 13 is going to be next year.
Honorable mentions: Jaque Fourie was brilliant in the Super 14 & Juan de Jongh looked very comfortable at 13 on the international season.
Wing (nr.14) James O’Connor
He didn’t have that great of a Super 14 but really made that 14 jumper his own when playing the Wobblies. I really believe that Wallabies’ world cup hopes are lying on their exciting youngsters’ shoulders & O’Connor is one of them.
Honorable mention: Gio Aplon. Nuff said.
Fullback: Mils Muliaina
Remember early in the Super 14 how everyone was saying Mils must take sidestep and hand the nr.15 jersey to the young and exciting Israel Dagg?? Well, he certainly sidestepped them allright, & is still running with that jersey on. Mils has been a revelation this year, playing the type of running rugby that got him selected 92 tests ago. Definitely my IRB player of the year.
Honorable mentions: Early in his career, Kurtley Beale has been touted as Australia’s next best thing at flyhalf but this season he showed that given a bit more space he can be even more devastating. Aplon can also hold his head up high.