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Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Tournament

The losing finalists, the Chiefs, make up the bulk of Bet Central’s Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Tournament.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Tournament

Super Rugby Pacific is done and dusted. The Crusaders were crowned champions once again, but the losing finalists, the Chiefs, make up the bulk of Bet Central’s Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Tournament.

15. Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)

No player without Test experience had a bigger impact than Shaun Stevenson in Super Rugby this year. An incredible finisher who ended the competition amongst the top try scorers with 12 tries, it wasn’t just the tries, but also how brilliant he was as a linking player on attack – Stevenson was the most devastating attacker in Super Rugby this year.

His non-selection for the All Blacks is a travesty and time will tell if Ian Foster and co will rue that decision. Tom Wright had a great season with the Brumbies, and Zarn Sullivan showed he has a big future, but both weren’t quite as good as the Chiefs man.

Honourable mention: Tom Wright (Brumbies)

14. Mark Telea (Blues)

Voted as the Blues’ MVP this season, Mark Telea had a season to remember in Super Rugby. After making his debut for the All Blacks last year, he took his game to the next level this season impacting the Blues’ attacking game with his searing pace and game intelligence. The one notable thing about Telea is his all-round ability, he is able to attack, defend and work off the ball with equal proficiency. Like Stevenson crossed the whitewash 12 times this season.

Emoni Narawa was duly rewarded for his good form with the Chiefs with an All Black call-up. Mark Nawaqanitawase was also excellent with the Waratahs.

Honourable mention: Emoni Narawa (Chiefs)

13. Len Ikitau (Brumbies)

He was out for long periods with injury, but not even that can take away from how good Len Ikitau is, his ability to read the game offensively and defensively stands out in particular. His ball skills, feet and incredible anticipation made him a standout. He is moving into the Lukhanyo Am-Gael Fickoi tier in terms of being world-class in that position.

What was clear from Izaia Perese’s performance level at 13 for the Waratahs is that all is not lost for the Wallabies should Ikitau not be available. Braydon Ennor also had himself quite the season and is backup to Ikitau.

Honourable mention: Braydon Ennor (Crusaders)

12. Levi Aumua (Moana Pasifika)

This is somewhat of a cheat selection because Levi Aumua only played a handful of games at 12 and thrived mostly at outside centre for Moana Pasifika. The big man showed incredible power in midfield and was a handful for every opposition that came up against him. The fact that he is unlikely to feature at the World Cup later this year is a travesty.

Dallas McLeod was unlucky in that he was rotated between 12 and the wing, if he had consistently been played at inside centre, he might well have cracked the team because he was excellent when he played there. 

Honourable mention: Dallas McLeod (Crusaders)

11. Leicester Fainga’nuku (Crusaders)

Caleb Clarke’s downturn in form has coincided with Leicester Fainga’nuku having an even better season than last year and it could swing the battle for the All Blacks no.11 jersey the way of Fainga’nuku. He was a showstopper with his power and pace on his way to the top of the try-scoring charts to end the season with 13 tries. 

Corey Toole was box office for the Brumbies and Monty Ioane was also fantastic for the Rebels. 

Honourable mention: Corey Toole (Brumbies)

10. Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) – Player of The Tournament

At 39, the decorated general used his steely calmness and worldly experience to pilot the Cheetahs back to the Promised Land and add another accolade to his remarkable honour roll. Whether at scrumhalf or flyhalf, Pienaar pulled the strings with aplomb and was a sharpshooter off the tee, racking up the second-most points of the competition (124).

9. Cam Roigard (Hurricanes)

Perhaps the most impactful youngster in this year’s competition, Cam Roigard had a superb season with the Hurricanes. The new All Black at times showed tactical maturity beyond his years. His crisp and quick distribution aided his inexperienced halfback partners. His all-round game showed lots of improvement and his knack for the try line was invaluable.

Vintage Aaron Smith showed up for the Highlanders at different stages while Brad Weber showed the form that made him an All Black. Nic White ultimately bubbles under Roigard.

Honourable mention: Nic White (Brumbies)

8. Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)

A player reborn this season at 8, Luke Jacobson has found his way back to form after an indifferent 2022 in which he fell out of favour with the All Blacks coaching staff. He has a stellar season at 8thman this year and finds himself back in the selection frame now.

There were other players who looked good at 8 throughout the season like Langi Gleeson, Ardie Savea, Harry Wilson etc, but it’s the Waikato man who gets the nod.

Honourable mention: Langi Gleeson (Waratahs)

7. Sam Cane (Chiefs)

Sam Cane had his best Super Rugby season in years. He proved his worth and most importantly silenced all the detractors who rendered the All Blacks captain a spent force. He was a menace at the breakdown, carried with little regard for his body and he was a tackling machine. He reminded all of his outstanding leadership in leading the Chiefs all the way to the final.

Fraser McReight was impactful for the Reds and he will be pushing Michael Hooper for the Wallabies’ no.7 jersey. Pete Samu when called upon to play on the openside was brilliant.

Honourable mention: Fraser McReight (Reds)

6. Rob Valentini (Brumbies)

Samipeni Finau lost his spot in the Chiefs side to Pita Gus Sowukula towards the end of the season and that saw him lose ground in the race to fill the blindside spot in this team. Even if he had played to the end though, it probably would have mattered little considering the way Rob Valentini played this year. 

The Wallabies loose forward shifted away from the back of the scrum to become the bruiser for the Brumbies and he did so with aplomb. Valentini’s work rate was complemented by his sheer single-mindedness. A standout for the Brumbies.

Honourable mention: Samipeni Finau (Chiefs)

5. Nick Frost (Brumbies)

If there’s one thing that a lot of people realised by now, it’s that Nick Frost has quite the turn of pace in him. Apart from sprinting 60m to score memorable tries, he was tireless in the trenches and operated the lineout with incredible efficiency. It has been a while since the Wallabies have had a world-class lock and it looks like Frost could reach that level.

It’s hard to pick between Tupou Vaa’i and Sam Whitelock for backup, Vaa’i was terrific the entire year, but Whitelock’s ability to find an extra gear when it matters most is incredible. But we’ll go with the youngster this time. 

Honourable mention: Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs)

4. Brodie Rettalick (Chiefs)

One of the all-time greats in world rugby, Brodie Rettalick showed once again why he may be the finest lock to ever play the game. He rolled back the years putting world-class shift after world-class shift in a truly outstanding final season in New Zealand. It’s unfortunate he couldn’t get over the line in the grand final.

The impact of Scott Barrett as a leader with the champion Crusaders side was telling, but beyond the leadership, he was grafter that made the Crusaders machine that much more efficient.

Honourable mention: Scott Barrett (Crusaders)

3. Tamaiti Williams (Crusaders)

Tamaiti Williams was a prop that showed much promise in 2022 and finally delivered spectacularly on that promise in 2023. He did not begin the season as a starting prop at the Crusaders, but he proved so good, that Razor Robinson had to give him a starting opportunity. The 22-year-old is one of the heaviest props in Super Rugby, but also one of the most mobile. He scrums well and looks set to become an important part of the Crusaders’ future.

Allan Ala’alatoa remains one of the most underrated props in world rugby, but he is an invaluable member of the Brumbies and Wallabies and he was once again a colossal presence for his franchise this season.

Honourable mention: Allan Ala’alatoa (Brumbies)

2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs)

Samisoni Taukei’aho is an old-school hooker in many ways, he is big, strong and abrasive. He takes 2 defenders with him with every carry and for such a big guy shows incredible agility around the park. He has a work rate 2nd to none and his lineout work is exemplary.

There were some mishaps in the final at lineout time, but that could never be enough to undo what has been a great season for Taukei’aho. Tex Ikanivere was incredible for Fijian Drua as a player and as a leader at hooker.

Honourable mention: Tevita Ikanivere (Fijian Drua)

1. Ethan de Groot (Highlanders)

The Highlanders seem to be in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to talent in New Zealand rugby, the presence of Aaron Smith made them that much better, but he is gone now. So who steps as a big-time player next season? It is likely to be our loosehead of the season Ethan de Groot. It’s hard to stand out as a prop, let alone playing for strugglers like the Highlanders, but de Groot stood out in a big way with his impressive work in the loose and excellent scrumming.

He is so important for the Highlanders going forward, bubbling under him is another Brumbies veteran prop who in the twilight of his career just seems to become even more influential – James Slipper had another great season.

Honourable mention: James Slipper (Brumbies)

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