The All Black stats for the Rugby Championship don’t lie: six bonus point wins, 38 tries scored and just five conceded, with an average scoreline of 44-14.
The All Blacks are on a 17-win world record-equalling streak and sit at the highest total (96.57) in IRB history.
From these incredible statistics, you’d expect a complete blackwash of a Rugby Championship Team of the Year. Well, you’d almost be right.
15. Ben Smith (All Blacks)
This selection won’t make anyone choke on their cornflakes. Smith must have the best all-round game in the world both in skills and strategy.
Finished joint-top try scorer, most clean breaks and second in metres gained. For Argentina, Joaquin Tuculet added some classy touches throughout the campaign while Israel Folau was mysteriously out of sorts.
14. Israel Dagg (All Blacks)
Joint-top try scorer with Smith, Dagg made a triumphant comeback to the All Blacks. Incredibly accurate, showcasing brilliant passing skills and tactical nous, he will take some dislodging from his new position.
He keeps out the impressive Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty, who came good after a nervous beginning, and Puma firefly Santiago Cordero, who was a clean-breaking menace throughout the season. For South Africa, Francois Hougaard tried hard but was sadly underutilised.
13. Anton Lienert Brown (All Blacks)
There were two selections which were the proverbial toss ‘o’ the coin and centre was one. Viewed over a season, Samu Kerevi probably should have rights to this accolade, and he and Haylett-Petty were the only Wallaby backs with any penetration.
Kerevi also finished 6th in metres gained and second in clean breaks. But Anton Lienert Brown’s quite incredible emergence cannot be ignored: despite playing only three full games, he made five try assists, finished second overall for offloads and beat nine defenders. Kerevi has busted lines and also been more consistent than Kerevi, who went missing against the All Blacks.
12. Ryan Crotty (All Blacks)
The no-nonsense, no mistakes Crotty had an impressive championship, defensively organised and showed good turns of speed and vision to bag four tries, mostly by picking up offloads off Lienert-Brown’s shoulder.
So why split up a good thing? For the Pumas, Juan Martin Hernandez provided some typically classy touches, while the South African and Wallaby second five eigths were underwhelming, with Bernard Foley topping the missed tackles chart with an astounding 16.
11. Julian Savea (All Blacks)
Another to notch up four tries during the campaign, Savea was third in metres gained and fourth in defenders beaten, despite being rested in the Durban game. One ticket for the bus, please.
For South Africa, Bryan Habana had an up and down championship, probably due to being underemployed catching a cold out on the wing,
10. Beauden Beauden (All Blacks)
Player of the season and the easiest selection in the team. Barrett topped most attacking statistics (points, metres, defenders beaten) and was also defensively sound. His place kicking over the season showed improvement and his electric pace and skills have taken the All Black backline to a new level.
For the Pumas, Nico Sanchez was the most accurate kicker, while Quade Cooper and Morne Steyn didn’t exactly breathe new life into their respective backlines.
9. TJ Perenara (All Blacks)
This selection might cause a few eyebrows to leap but Perenara’s athletic impact mirrored that of Anton Lienert-Brown’s and he scored four tries in the final three games, showcasing his outstanding support play.
Aaron Smith and Will Genia also played to an excellent standard but Smith’s personal troubles and a couple of quiet games for Genia in the final two matches saw TJ nose it. For the Springboks, Francois de Klerk didn’t ignite in the same way at test level as he did in a Lions jersey in the Super 18.
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8. Facundo Isa (Argentina)
Select all these All Blacks but not the captain, I hear you say? Well, it would take a titanic performer to keep Kieran Read out of any combined team, but Isa is that player. When you make 110 metres, one try and a whopping 23 carries against the All Blacks, you’ve got to take notice.
First in carries, fifth in overall offloads and metres gained, third in defenders beaten, eighth in clean breaks, he and Pablo Matera raised the level of Los Pumas but was often let down by the poor handling and option taking of teammates who could not finish off his busting breaks. Warren Whiteley also toiled well for the Springboks.
7. Ardie Savea (All Blacks)
A difficult position to select as the All Black contenders Sam Cane and Savea had intermittent involvement. Hooper was not the running force of previous seasons. His industry was beyond doubt, finishing top tackler but was also fifth in missed tackles.
Savea’s impact and tackling accuracy see him secure the position. Javier Ortega Desio also showed promise for the Pumas while Teboho Mohoje tackled his heart out for the Boks, finishing second over the season.
6. Jerome Kaino (All Blacks)
Kaino was a dominant force in the All Black pack, and also made some telling contributions in attack, with charge downs, bullocking charges and delicate sleight of hand to set up several tries.
Pablo Matera also had a big impact on the positive aspects of Argentina’s play, finishing second in offloads and was the second-rated forward in defenders beaten behind his Puma teammate, Facundo Isa. Dean Mumm also made some strong impact for the Wallabies in the closing rounds.
5. Sam Whitelock (All Blacks)
Whitelock thrives on the tough stuff, and he, Kaino and Read took care of a lot of the tight defensive work, allowing Retallick and Coles to roam wider into attacking roles. Whitelock topped the tackle count for the All Blacks during the RC.
Apart from a few bone-headed moments, when they received yellow cards, Wallaby Adam Coleman and Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit also grew into their roles during the season.
4. Brodie Retallick (All Blacks)
Retallick had a consistent, powerful campaign at the forefront of All Black forward drives to the line. He was unlucky to be denied two tries by TMO review decisions.
3. Ramiro Herrera (Argentina)
Herrera was a busy, bustling presence throughout the campaign, and his 95 metres gained in a losing effort against Australia shows his promise.
He also finished high on turnovers conceded, which means he and his teammates have some work to do. For the All Blacks, Owen Franks transformed into a more mobile, more complete player.
2. Dane Coles (All Blacks)
Dane Coles and Puma captain Agustin Creevy both had stellar campaigns and it was difficult to separate the two players, particularly as Creevy tended to come out on top in face-to-face meetings. However, Coles’ running game and excellence in his core roles has transformed the rake roll into something far more exciting, and his one-handed offload for TJ Perenara’s second try in Durban exemplifies his, at times, breathtaking contributions.
Creevy was a lion-hearted, skilled competitor whose side seems on the brink of a breakthrough, while Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss made some telling runs at times. Wallaby captain Stephen Moore had a forgettable campaign, with the worst lineout throwing completion stats out of the sides with eleven missed throws.
1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Argentina)
Chaparro, like Herrera, made a strong impact in the RC, propping a typically solid Argentinian scrum and involving himself well in general play.
Joe Moody made some important defensive tackles for the All Blacks while Vincent Koch was staunch for South Africa, but perhaps short of his storming Super 18 form.
All Blacks: 12
South Africa: 0
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: aaron smith, Adrian Strauss, Agustin Creevy, Anton Lienert Brown, ardie savea, beauden barrett, Ben Smith, brodie retallick, dane coles, dane haylett-petty, facundo isa, israel dagg, israel folau, Jerome Kaino, julian savea, Pablo Matera, quade cooper, Ramiro Herrera, Ryan Crotty, sam whitelock, Top Story, will genia