15. Israel Folau
Three tries, four clean breaks, four defenders beaten, and over eighty metres gained with ball in hand. Folau was very intelligent with his support play and running lines off a rejuvenated Quade Cooper, and showed the devastating right-to-left sidestep that caused the Lions so many problems back in June.
14. Ben Smith
New Zealand’s try machine, and world rugby’s form winger added another to his tally following good support play and another quality finish. With that score, the Highlander broke the tournament record for most tries in a season.
13. Conrad Smith
So often referred to as the “glue that holds the All Blacks together”, Smith was very busy in defence as the Boks laid siege to the Kiwi line. He made ten tackles from outside centre, and as always, did the simple things very well in his side’s victory.
12. Jean de Villiers
The Springbok skipper led by example, laying waste to the All Blacks defence on several occasions – one of which resulted in a barnstorming try. De Villiers beat five defenders, made over one hundred metres, and set the standard for his side.
11. Joe Tomane
The young winger, like many of his team-mates, has come in for plenty criticism of late, but hit back with a bang in Rosario, turning in an excellent performance in attack. Two assists and an impressive long-range try saw him gain a massive one-hundred-and-seventy-five metres with ball in hand.
10. Quade Cooper
The much-maligned pivot posted his best showing in a Wallaby jersey for some time. It was refreshing to see one of the world’s most gifted playmakers return to form, up and flat, challenging the Argentine defence, and firing out a wonderful array of long and short passes. Provided a classy no-look inside ball for Folau’s hat-trick try. Special mention to Kiwi substitute Beauden Barrett, whose try won the title for his side, and who made a stunning last-gasp tackle on Willie Le Roux.
9. Will Genia
More than justified his selection over Nic White with a brilliant display from scrum-half. His partnership with Cooper bore fruit once more, with his slick service and intelligence providing two assists. Genia was typically sharp around the fringes, making two clean breaks, and worked hard to cause the Pumas back row problems.
8. Kieran Read
One of the All Blacks’ most important players, Read fronted up to the Springboks power, and was colossal in the loose with fourteen tackles and seventy-one metres with ball in hand. He won a number of turnovers and penalties, offloaded superbly for Smith to romp home, and dotted down himself to seal the victory.
7. Michael Hooper
Was finally given the assistance at the breakdown he has been in desperate need of for much of the Championship, and made a perfect ten tackles with none missed. In the loose, the young openside was a ball of energy, carrying brilliantly, and causing the Pumas defence plenty problems with his direct running and raw pace.
6. Liam Messam
The blindside was immense in the tight exchanges against a monstrous Boks pack, doing some real damage at the breakdown. His power and presence with ball in hand saw him score two tries, and though he was sin-binned for a ruck offence in his own 22, was a real stand-out performer for the All Blacks.
5. Sam Whitelock
Simply superb showing from Whitelock at Ellis Park, whose stellar tournament performances have gone somewhat under the radar in contrast to his second-row partner Brodie Retallick. He made nine tackles, with none missed, and carried ball tirelessly.
4. Eben Etzebeth
More raw power from South Africa’s second-row starlet, including a massive run up the left touchline that brought the home crowd to their feet. He was typically abrasive in the loose with seven tackles, and carried bravely throughout the clash, making forty metres in attack.
3. Charlie Faumuina
The young tighthead made more tackles (seven) than any other front row player in the final round of the tournament, and did well to contain Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira in the scrum. He will be disappointed, however, with his attempt to stop Willie Le Roux from dotting down early in the second half.
2. Andrew Hore
The experienced hooker did his job with an accomplished opening forty minutes. His throwing was good, and he showed up well with ball in hand, playing a part in Messam’s second try.
1. Tony Woodcock
The veteran loosehead recovered from a dressing down at the hands of Argentine tighthead Juan Figallo last week to hold his own against the hulking Jannie du Plessis. Woodcock was impressive in the loose, too, making five tackles with none missed, and gaining over twenty metres in attack.
By Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images