20 Aug 2012
Team of the Rugby Championship - Week One
As one might suspect there is a heavy All Black influence, after their away victory over Australia in Sydney gave them some early momentum in the battle for the Bledisloe Cup. A couple of Boks and Wallabies make the grade too for their sterling efforts on the field. For the first time though, there's also a welcome South American flavour in the 15. Read on to see who caught our eye and why!
Team of Round One:
1.Woodock, 2.Mealamu, 3.Franks, 4.Romano, 5.Sharpe, 6.Coetzee, 7.McCaw, 8.Lobbe, 9.Houggard, 10.Carter, 12.Steyn, 13.Nonu, 11.Habana, 14.Camacho, 15.Dagg
1. Tony Woodcock (NZ) - Not many loosehead props stood out in week one. The 'Beast' and Rodrigo Roncero were quiet by their usual standards, while the Australian props struggled against the power of the All Blacks, conceding a number of scrum penalties. For that reason, Tony Woodock takes the spot. I'll admit that his selection is almost by default though.
2. Keven Mealamu (NZ) - Defying his 33 years of age, the Blues and All Blacks hooker played like a young tear-away in Sydney. Lack of game time in this year's Super 15 seems to have kept him fresh, as 3 crucial turnovers within 40 minutes would suggest. Some accurate throwing in the line out and strong ball carrying strongly influenced the result of the first Bledisloe Cup game of 2012 too.
3. Owen Franks (NZ) - 15 tackles is a huge work load for a tighthead prop. It's the kind of numbers you might expect from an openside flanker. In fact it's the exact same amount Richie McCaw stacked up in Sydney .That was enough to draw special praise from his coach, Steve Hansen. The Cantabrian is forging himself a repuation as (arguably) the best tight head prop in the world at the moment.
4. Luke Romano (NZ) - Added the necessary grunt for the All Blacks in the scrum and well warranted his selection ahead of young rival Brodie Retallick. He may have been a relatively late bloomer at 26, but the Crusaders lock looks to have the goods at test level. His combination with the more rangy Sam Whitelock has a good balance too.
5. Nathan Sharpe (AUS) - The Western Force lock rolled back the years in Bledisloe I. Despite only being selected in the squad because of an injury to usual Reds and Wallabies captain James Horwill, Sharpe was effervescent around the park. Scoring Australia's only try was just reward for his efforts. Deans may be asking Sharpe to reconsider his retirement if he keeps churning out performances like this.
6. Marcell Coetzee (SA) - Busy with the ball in hand (making 11 ball carries) and was the second top South African tackler after Willem Alberts. The Sharks youngster was dominant at times against the Pumas and controlled the ball unexpectedly well at the back of the maul before scoring a try in the right hand corner for the Boks. His meteoric rise in 2012 isn't ceasing.
7. Richie McCaw (NZ) - Richie was Richie. He largely nullified the much hyped David Pocock on the ground, made15 tackles and was impressively physical with the ball in hand. That area of his game has improved greatly in the last couple of years and one could be justified in claiming that McCaw could be a starting All Black 8 (if it weren't for a certain Kieran Reid).
8. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (ARG) - The heart beat of the Pumas was the top tackler in Cape Town with 11 and won the ball 6 times in the lineout, establishing a good relationship with the newcomer at hooker, Guinazu. The Pumas may have disappointed some fans with their lacklustre performance against the Boks, but it would be unfair to level the same criticism at the Toulon back rower. He was as consistent as ever.
9. Francois Houggard (SA) - The Bulls' scrum half was a constant threat from the base of the ruck, making 48 running metres with the ball in hand against the Pumas and beating five defenders in the process. His tactical kicking was hugely improved too, after drawing criticism for his lack of accuracy against England in June. Fourie who?
10. Dan Carter (NZ) - Not his best display in an All Blacks shirt, but still pulled the strings to good effect from fly half. His controlling influence was present as ever, as he orchestrated New Zealand's two tries; drawing in the Wallabies defence before unleashing his outsides with accurate passes. Reasonably accurate with the boot too as he scored 17 points from the tee.
12. Francois Steyn (SA) - Inside centre (like loosehead prop) was a position were no-one really shone. Steyn did show nice balance for the Boks though, and was very physical in the confrontations. He probably edged it over Sonny Bill Williams this week, but I'm willing to be told otherwise!
13. Ma'a Nonu (NZ) - Was not seen much on attack as his threat was used more as a decoy, but his presence was enough to divert the Wallabies attention from the likes of Dagg and Jane who inflicted serious damage as a result. The Blues man made thirteen tackles in a defensively sound display too; an impressive feat considering it was his first appearance at outside centre in a number of years.
11. Bryan Habana (SA) - Played on the right wing for the Springboks on Saturday as opposed to his customary left wing spot, but an energetic performance from South Africa's top ever try scorer meant he deserved a place somewhere in this side. 78 running metres made with the ball in hand (beating 3 defenders) was arguably his best performance in a Springboks squad in a while. He even got on the scorsheet, collecting a Morne Steyn cross kick to put some gloss on the scoreline. His surprise rejuvenation in 2012 continues...(Digby Ione was an unlucky omission though as he was slippery as ever for the Wallabies).
14. Gonzalo Camacho (ARG) - An energetic and bustling performance from the Exeter Chiefs winger; 46 running metres made and 4 defenders beaten. Was unlucky to finish on the losing side. While some Pumas struggled with the intensity of the occasion, Camacho came to the fore and only enhanced his ever growing reputation. Some may argue the inclusion of young Juan Imhoff in his place, but it looks like Camacho will have the 14 jumper for another week at least.
15. Israel Dagg (NZ) - The performer of the week and once again Australia's biggest foe. The Crusader made 99 running metres, 2 clean breaks and beat a whole host of defenders. His shimmy outside Kurtley Beale for the All Blacks' first try was a real beauty. As mentioned in a previous post, the Hawkes Bay try scoring machine seems to turn it on in the big matches; something which will please Steve Hansen and four and a half million other kiwis.