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The four best teams in Super Rugby 2012 met in two tightly fought semi-final clashes. Two derby matches, first in New Zealand with the Chiefs proving that their conference dominance was no fluke when they held on for a 3 point victory against the Crusaders and then back in South Africa the table topping Stormers hosted the Sharks with all the odds in their favor, the result however was not. The Sharks emerged victors and they will be meeting the Chiefs in Hamilton in this year’s final.
Our team clearly reflects the results, with only one ‘loser’ slipping into the team this week.
15. Robbie Robinson
New Zealand has plenty of fullback talent to look at this year and with less depth and a few injuries in their midfield numbers we may see one of these talented fullbacks used to cover this area, as the All Blacks have done in the past with slippery fullbacks like Christain Cullen and now maybe Robbie Robinson.
14. Louis Ludik
He is definitely one of the players that has been integral to the late surge the Sharks have made in the last few weeks. The way he has stepped up his game with every opportunity he got from his coach has been inspirational. And now it would not be unreasonable to ask for his inclusion in the Rugby Championship.
13. JP Pietersen
He’s on fire at the moment. Anytime he touches the ball it feels like something will happen and when he’s not breaking the line or taking bombs out of the air or chipping perfect kicks for scrum-halves to score or making huge tackles, he’s taking the ball up in the tackle and making meters. It’s great to watch him in this form.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
Another New Zealand player hyped to the point of annoyance. He will leave rugby union soon but will have left his mark. The offload existed before he came along but in the short time he was part of the sport the use of the offload has become far more prominent. He will be remembered for the offload but I have to admit, there is more to him than that.
11. Lwazi Mvovo
Lwazi didn’t score the tries in this match and wasn’t the flash we usually expect from a Team of the week wing selection but he was solid on defence, making quite a few good tackles. He was great under the highball both defensively and on attack and did everything one would expect from a player in a high pressure match. He has grown a lot this season.
10. Fred Michalak
Now that we’re not picking a South African conference team we can finally make Fred our 10, he’s been one of the best fly-halves for a while now delivering great rugby for the Sharks and more importantly consistently so! Who ever thought that word would be related to Freddie? And it has been so important to his teams’ success.
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
He’s only 21 years old and has the potential to become a great All Black scrum-half. He’s passing and basic play from scrum-half is good, although this is the one part of his game that he can still improve on. His ability to read the play and make quick decisions, sniping around rucks and putting his loosies into space with sneaky inside passes is what makes him dangerous.
8. Ryan Kankowski
Ryan was injured against the Bulls in round one of this year’s competition, he made his return in round 10 and was played off the bench for 5 games before the June International break. He got his second start in round 15 coincidentally again against the Bulls and has started in every game since, making an important contribution to the Sharks unlikely success (up to this point). Calling the line-outs for the Sharks is only one of the many responsibilities he has excelled at.
7. Marcell Coetzee
In one of his more quiet games, as the Stormers did a great job in keeping all the big ball carriers of the Sharks reasonably quiet with their strong defence, it is important to note that a quiet game for Marcell includes 10 runs and 15 tackles. A quiet game for Marcell is still above standard for most others in his position. What a find.
6. Liam Messam
I would love to have put captain Keegan’s name down here as he has been so immense for the Sharks in everything that he does not least of which includes his growth as a captain but Liam Messam had an absolute blinder of a game, making tackles and breaking tackles all over the place and scoring a crucial try for his team in the process.
5. Anton Bresler
Bresler is doing his best to prove his worth to his critics and I think he’s doing a damn good job of it. The line-outs of the Sharks has been improving all season and for the last few weeks I can’t think of more than one or two line-outs that was lost and although Kankowski has been making the calls, Bresler has been prominent in receiving the throws. Aside from doing his premier job outstandingly Bresler has been huge on defence throughout the competition and even more so in the last few weeks.
4. Eben Etzebeth
He’s a big boy and although that storm on Bismarck stood out, he made plenty more huge runs just like that in the rest of the game, always drawing at least two defenders to take him down. With the massive number of injuries in the loose forwards for the Stormers, Etzebeth has stood up in a big way in this role.
3. Ben Tameifuna
At 20 years of age this young find for the Chiefs has great potential. He put a strong Crusaders scrum under pressure and loves making big runs with ball in hand.
2. Bismarck du Plessis
So you can bring Bismarck down, but you can’t keep him down. Always important for the Sharks is his determination and passion to break the opposition but most impressively he’s been clinical in his set pieces and has minimised his overall error rate, without losing any of the fire.
1. Sona Taumalolo
He’s scored 9 tries this season. Okay his last one was a little obscure and controversial but none the less it was awarded and he’s been able to get over the line for the Chiefs almost just as much as Andre Taylor for the Hurricanes and Bjorn Basson for the Bulls. It’s unprecedented. He only needs 1 more to be tied top try scorer this year… Please no!
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