RWC: Team of the tournament

2007-10-23 08:41

Tank Lanning

On Sunday in my Front Row Grunt blog I suggested the entire Bok squad take a bow, and I truly meant that. A massive well done, and importantly, a huge thank you, to every single member of the Bok squad that brought home the Webb Ellis Cup.

It is a monumental achievement that means an absolute truckload to this country of ours. Amazing what a small group of people that have dedicated the last four years to a cause can do for an entire country. And it has been a cause. Jake White, his skipper, John Smit, and the men who, quite literally, bled for the cause, deserve all the credit that comes their way. I am enormously proud to be a South African today.

Already the crap that comes with politicians wanting to milk the publicity with their inane rantings has begun, as has the talk about how the new coach will be picked, and the selection policy for those plying their trade outside the country. But for this week, I want to keep it clean, and about the game...

So, below, the side I would pick to play next weekend against Mars, based ONLY on World Cup form:

15-Jason Robinson (England)

Much like England, came back from the dead after his hamstring injury. Fantastic on attack, as always, but also very solid in defence this RWC.

14-Vilimoni Delasau (Fiji)

Fiji threw tactical kicking out the window, choosing rather some exciting backline play. The result, thankfully, was seeing this man in action with ball in hand.

13-Luke McAlister (New Zealand)

Yes, I know he has traditionally been selected as an inside centre, but I think he would make an amazing outside centre, working in the space created by the players closer to the scrum. If just for his performance in the first half against the French, he deserves this spot. His ability to break the line is second to no one in the world.

12-Felipe Contepomi (Argentina)

Actually the trickiest position to fill in my side. It was not often that the ball got past the flyhalf in this World Cup, reducing inside centres to tacklers and chasers. So, to my mind, and given that McAlister was a certainty for me, that left the other guys like Matt Giteau, Jaque Fourie and Seru Rabeni, even though also mostly selected at outside centre for their respective teams, fighting for the inside centre berth. I went with a slightly romantic option...

11-Bryan Habana (South Africa)

Undoubtedly the back of the tournament to my mind. Earth shatteringly quick, but with a swerve and side step to boot. Can score tries from absolutely anywhere on the field.

10-Juan-Martin Hernandez (Argentina)

Together with his inside back partner, Agustin Pichot, given the power of the Argentinean scrum, he does have one of the more cushier rides in world rugby. But this guy is just sheer class. Technically extraordinary.

9-Fourie du Preez (South Africa)

Pushed hard by Fiji's Mosese Rauluni but given his ability to dominate a game with both boot and ball in hand, he would be my man.

8-Gonzalo Longo (Argentina)

As per my comment about Hernandez, the platform provided by the Argentinean scrum does provide sensational space for a No 8 and Longo made excellent use of that freedom.

7-Juan Smith (South Africa)

To my mind, the player of the tournament. He was consistently the most effective player in a Green and Gold jersey, combining brutal donkey work up front with finesse in linking the forwards and backs as the Boks went through the phases. He really is a very special player.

6-Thierry Dusautoir (France)

Yes, amazingly, it is not any of Schalk Burger, Richie McCaw or George Smith, but to my mind, these guys were just a little off their game on the big stage. And actually any of Serge Betsen, Yannick Nyanga or Dusautoir could have taken this spot in the side. They were all excellent.

5-Victor Matfield (South Africa)

This man owns the air above a lineout in every game he plays in. And let's not forget his ability to dominate the restart. Pure class. A contender for player of the tournament.

4-Bakkies Botha (South Africa)

This was the man targeted by all the Pacific Island sides as the hard-man of the Boks, and the one to try and unsettle. The response was magnificent - good, clean, but very hard rugby.

3-Martin Scelzo (Argentina)

I have gone on about the amazing Puma scrum for good reason. And this is where it all begins - a tribute to where Argentine rugby comes from.

2-John Smit (South Africa, captain)

Came of age as an international skipper, so I pick him as much for his ability as captain, but also his amazing reliability come the finding of his lineout jumpers.

1-Andrew Sheridan (England)

A brutally powerful scrummager, but also fairly devastating as a charging bull with ball in hand. Single handedly destroyed Australia, and only kept quiet in the final by a monumental effort by the Bok pack.

It sure has been a topsy-turvy tournament, what with two of the top sides departing at quarter-final time, the hosts blowing very hot and cold, and the Argentineans destroying the form book. And while a side that has been playing together as a team would almost always beat such an "all-star" selection such as this, it is fun to pick a few stand-out players as an exercise. Hence the look of the above team. Not what many would have predicted going into the tournament...

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

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    AB praises selfless skipper

    2010-11-21 18:15

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