Over the course of the Super Rugby regular season, Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has plied himself with copious amount of caffeine (he’s still looking for a coffee sponsor by the way) and biscuits to produce his NZ Team of the Week. So with the regular season done and dusted, Yalden depressed the plunger and ripped opened the toffee pops one last time to collate his NZ Team of the Season.
Players selected in a team of the week earned one point, with the forward and back of the week earning an extra point and any player given a special mention or acknowledgement received a half point.
- After all the points had been collated, there was an instance of two players tied on points in the same position. In this instance Nigel was empowered to make a Selectors Choice.
NZ TEAM OF THE SEASON
1 Karl Tu’inukafe (Chiefs) appeared regularly in TOTW since becoming a starter for the Chiefs in week 10, standing out as a power scrummager but also with an ever improving work rate around the field
2 Codie Taylor (Crusaders) is playing the game with the confidence of a man who knows that he is the number one hooker in New Zealand. Sharp in all areas of his core roles, his athleticism and skill around the field have been top drawer all season long
3 The job Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs) has done for the Chiefs this season has been quite extraordinary. After coming in as injury cover, Ta’avao was a reserve for the first two games but after an injury to Nepo Laulala, has started every game since, being asked to rack up some massive minutes along the way and did so at a high level to be the clear selection in this position.
4 I’m all out of words for Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) and his play this season. You’ll be unsurprised that he scored the highest of all players in the team of the season and was a clear choice for Forward of the Season honours
5 Teams like this reward consistent play of a high level and that is exactly what Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) delivers every single time he steps foot on a rugby field. His ever improving leadership also earns him Captain of the Season honours
6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes) is physical, accurate and dependable, thus the perfect foil for some of the exuberance play that his team-mates can deliver
7 Like Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane (Chiefs) is an elite performer every time he plays and another whose leadership continues to grow steadily with more time in the captaincy saddle
8 Jordan Taufua (Crusaders) produced some barnstorming performances off the back of the Crusaders pack midseason which undoubtedly helped cement his spot in the All Blacks squad for the June Internationals.
9 Aaron Smith (Highlanders) is back to his best in terms of passing, kicking and organising. Throw in that he got back to sniping around the fringes a bit more and it’s no surprise to see him pop up consistently through the season in TOTW
10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders) is driving that Crusaders machine with the confidence and accuracy of a player with double the amount of top level experience that he possess; would love to see him given the keys to the All Blacks … maybe versus the Pumas in Nelson?
11 George Bridge (Crusaders) gets the nods via a Selector’s Choice over Ben Lam (Hurricanes) While Lam delivered some outstanding performances; his level of play has dropped away in the back end of the regular season. Bridge on the other hand has been a very consistent part of the Crusaders efforts right throughout the year and it’s that consistency, coupled with excellent play sees him chosen on the left wing
12 We all know that Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) is a beast with ball in hand; however it’s the other aspects of his game – equally strong defence as well as improved distribution and decision making skills - that saw him chosen often for TOTW throughout the season
13 Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) is going to be a great player for as long as he wants to be. Strong, accurate and intelligent, he, like many other Crusaders players already mentioned, play the game at a consistently high level and as the highest scoring back receives Back of the Season honours
14 Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) made no race of this. A player who thrives on week in week out play, Naholo delivered in his most injury free season in recent times with some outstanding play, not only with ball in hand, but also defensively, especially snaffling turn over ball at breakdowns out wide.
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders) … well who else was it going to be?
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
**NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB