Why the SANZAAR Team of the Week is ‘Less Than Perfect’

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Super Rugby Quarter Final - Crusaders v Highlanders
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 22: Richie Mo'unga (L) of the Crusaders slips through the tackle of Marty Banks of the Highlanders during the Super Rugby Quarter Final match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders at AMI Stadium on July 22, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Someone at SANZAAR is under fire. At a time when their competition is reaching it’s zenith, they seem to be more concerned with pleasing their regional parties, than choosing the brightest and best from within the competition. Their Sanzaar Team of the Week is wholly representative of form, and is being questioned by punters and commentators alike.

When examined, the list of 15 players bears less resemblance to the form players of the quarterfinals–which is an arguable selection by the way. Less than perfect, and it shows the old saying rings true;

“You can’t please everyone – but you need to recognize the best players, in your TOTW.”

While the regular feature over the 2017, the Team of the Week (TOTW) has tried hard to be fair to all teams. But now, as the pressure goes on, it must be expected to become more discerned. And for many, it has not…unless you are a Canberra Brumbies supporter.

The mis-representation only adds to their worries, of an organization that may not be able to follow through on announcements to reduce Super Rugby in 2018.

Why the Sanzaar Team of the Week is ‘Less Than Perfect’

Many leagues, championships and competitions across the sporting globe, love to herald their ‘best of’. Some call it their ‘Top Player/Team’ or a selection of the best.

And why not. Promotion and marketing are crucial tools for both publicity, and credibility. This is the core focus point; credibility. And of course the objectivity of the promotion can be called into question. If seen to be self-serving or to be mis-representative–as this weeks appears–as rather than selected on form. And of course, ‘form is fleeting’.

The selected XV in question, should be analyzed across all positions. Because not every selection is off target, it is just arguable and the Sanzaar Team of the Week should be a celebration of the game’s status: the best professional rugby competition of the Southern Hemisphere. Not a generalization in disguise.

Challenging for Team of the Week Selections

#1 : Jacques van Rooyen

With just six tackles made and a gain of six meters, the evidence is out on why van Rooyen was selected.

Challengers: Thomas du Toit, Scott Sio, Ben May, Joe Moody, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Janse van Rensburg, Kane Hames

Verdict: Scott Sio (followed closely by Kane Hames)

#2 : Codie Taylor

The Crusaders hooker did everything asked of him, but in the sodden conditions that Christchurch delivered, his challenges were many. Others were able to display a wider skills base, and some reached for that brass ring.

Challengers: Bongi Mbonambi, Nathan Harris, Josh Mann-Rea, Ricky Riccitelli, Liam Coltman, Chilboy Ralepelle, Malcolm Marx

Verdict: Chiliboy Ralepelle (with a good performance from Nathan Harris)

#3 : Allan Alaalatoa

Alaalatoa has been on the rise, and his International career will see him go far with the Wallabies now that Stephen Moore is close to ending his. Did he out perform his fellow props though? Hard to justify.

Challengers: Ruan Dreyer, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Frans Malherbe, Nepo Laulala, Owen Franks, Siate Tokolahi

Coenie Oosthuizen of the Cell C Sharks held up during the 2016 Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions at Growthpoint Kings Park on April 09, 2016 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Verdict: Tough call… Coenie Oosthuizen (with Toomaga-Allen earning kudos for his ‘falcon’)

#4 : Franco Mostert

Picked out of position, the powerful number four held the ball well for the Lions: 12 carries and picked up a ‘meat pie’. His two offloads also showed his range.

Challengers: Scott Barrett, Jackson Hemopo, Rory Arnold, Mark Abbott, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andries Ferreira, Eben Etzebeth, Mitchell Brown

Verdict – CORRECT CALL  (with a strong performance from Mitchell Hunt)

#5 : Pieter-Steph du Toit

Challengers: Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallic, Sam Carter, Sam Louisi, Stephan Lewies, Tom Franklin,

Verdict – CORRECT CALL

#6 : Jaco Kriel

The fighting spirit of Kriel is obvious. He puts his all in, and the try is always an indicator of a high contributor, but in his role, was he the top flanker?

Challenges:Scott Fardy, Vaea Fifita, Jordan Taufua, Liam Squire, Phillip Van Der Walt, Liam Messam, Siya Kilosi

Verdict – Extremely tough call, but Liam Squire barges his way into the TOTW

#7 : Ardie Savea

With 57 meters gained, Savea is always moving. His energy is often contagious, whereas many of his challenges can get too caught up in defensive tactics.

Challenges: Sam Cane, Rynhardt Elstadt, Chris Alcock, Matt Todd, James Lentjes, Kwagga Smith, Jean-Luc Du Preez

Verdict – CORRECT CALL (he had few to rise above him)

#8 : Kieran Read

The New Zealand captain was in a commanding mode yes, along with his determined Crusaders team mates. With his lineout contributing plenty, Read offered much–restricted with conditions though. But was it outstanding?

Challengers: Jordan Smiler, Brad Shields, Luke Whitelock, Ruan Ackermann, Daniel Du Preez, Nizaam Carr, Michael Leitch

Verdict – Daniel Du Preez (with a mention for Nizaam Carr of the Stormers)

#9 : TJ Perenara

Many would say he is the most influential half in the competition. But could some of the opposing number nine’s have done better?

Challengers: Cobus Reinach, Ross Cronje, Joe Powell, Bryn Hall, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dewaldt Duvenage

Verdict – CORRECT CALL – few better (with Cronje worth a mention) 

#10 : Wharenui Hawera

One of the more subjective selections. The young kiwi who has played at good hand for the Brumbies, but in this match his kicking was a mere 50%. And while he played a good game, was he the best first-five on display?

Wharenui Hawera of the Brumbies passes during the round three Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Force at GIO Stadium on March 10, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Challengers: Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Cruden, Damian Wilemse, Lima Sopoaga, Elton Jantjies, Curwin Bosch

Verdict – Richie Mo’unga* (with Curwin Bosch a man to watch in 2018) *see main picture

#11 : James Lowe

With his versatility and inherent need to make himself involved, a quarterfinal was just the motivation needed.

Challenges: Sibusiso Nkosi, Courtnall Skosan, James Dargaville, Seta Tamanivalu, Richard Buckman, Dillyn Leyds

Verdict – CORRECT CALL (with strong work by young Nkosi)

#12 : Andrew Smith

The most controversial call. Yes, his numbers were very reliable and in the first half he was a man to help organize the Dargaville try. Even with that, who else may have played as well?

Challengers: Harold Vorster, Andre Esterhuizen, Ngani Laumape, Stephen Donald, Damian De Allende

Verdict – Stephen Donald; 60 minutes of class (outshining Vorster in experience)

Note – see translation in English

#13 : Jordie Barrett

Not known as a center, the young tyro is doing a fine job. But, is fine ‘good enough’ for TOTW status?

Challengers: Lionel Mapoe, Lukhanyo Am, Tevita Kuridrani, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, EW Viljoen, Anton Lienert-Brown

Verdict – Lionel Mapoe…even a try from Barrett cannot match the Lion!

#14 : Wes Goosen

In some games, the ball just ‘lands at your feet’. And in Canberra, he survived and prospered in the freezing cold.

Challengers: Solomona Alaimalo, Cheslin Kolbe, Henry Speight, Ruan Combrink, Kobus van Wyk

Verdict – NO DOUBT (his two tries were a better hand than Combrink’s fulltime kick)

#15 : Damian McKenzie

With statistics that seem to be in juxtaposition with his size, the All Black-in waiting does very little wrong. However, should he be compared fairly with others?

Challengers: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Tom Banks, Andries Coetzee, Lwazi Mvovo, SP Marais, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith

Verdict – …by a Whisker, CORRECT CALL (with Coetzee & Banks very, very impressive)

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Even after these verdicts are made, many others will see ‘their guy’ as a better option. Ben Smith on a dry track, or Rory Arnold or Eben Etzebeth would challenge on any day. Who, why and how is subjective but if the judgement of the competition organizers can be far away from any common consensus, it begs to create controversy.

Hard to call, and criticism is never far away, but this article raises the final opinion: should SANZAAR even attempt to compile this list?

Possibly, but statistics and regional representation can always be misinterpreted. Kieran Read is a fine number eight, but in the rain of Christchurch, his performance was outshone by Daniel Du Preez.

So in essence, an SANZAAR Team of the Week might always find conjecture. The advice of Last Word on Rugby is….punters and ex-players are usually better judges. The semifinal will have less competitors to choose from. They usually can visually see who impresses whereas statistical evidence will only reflect the metrics.

And rugby is a game more about talent and desire–less about the ‘rugby by numbers’ approach that this TOTW displayed.

“Main photo credit”

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