And the awards go to.....
Before The Rugby Championship (can we have a competition to find a better name for it?) disappears in the rear view mirror, some awards.
These are random, feel free to agree, disagree, add your own.
Most riveting match: All Blacks v Springboks in Dunedin. An epic, brutal battle right out of the history of this great rivalry and, like so many in the past, decided as much by opportunities lost as by those taken.
Most complete performance: All Blacks v Argentina in La Plata. It took a brilliant Pumas try to spark it, but this was the one where potential became reality.
Outstanding individual: Richie McCaw. Surely even his arch-critics have to acknowledge his leadership, his bravery, his refusal to take a backward step.
Five established players who inspired: Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe, Nathan Sharpe, Rodrigo Roncero, Kieran Read, Bryan Habana.
Five “rookies” destined for greatness: Eben Etzebeth, Johan Goosen, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Michael Hooper.
Most disastrous cameo: Dean Greyling in Dunedin. Another five minutes of that and he’d have been added to the list of suspects in the Kennedy assassination.
Player most likely to inflict an injury on their own teammate: A tie between Owen Franks and Scott Higginbotham, with Conrad Smith a surprise contender after rearranging Luke Romano's facial features in Buenos Aires.
Team of the tournament : Dagg, Jane, Habana, C Smith, Nonu, Carter, A Smith, Read, McCaw, Louw, Whitelock, Etzebeth, Franks, Strauss, Roncero.
Team try of the tournament : Martin Landajo for the Pumas against the All Blacks in La Plata…created by the dazzling footwork of Lucas Gonzales Amorosino. Magic.
Individual try of the tournament: Aaron Smith in Dunedin, probably the most important moment in the whole series.
Best ref: Jaco Peyper. Calm, composed, vigilant but empathetic.
And at the other end of the scale : Allain Rolland. Match-ruiningly pedantic in Sydney, myopic in Jo’burg.
Worst match: Wallabies v Pumas in Rosario. Much needed win for the crippled Wallabies, but the Pumas were out of gas, the mistakes were pandemic and some clown in the crowd started laser lighting Kurtley Beale while he was lining up kicks.
Best athmosphere : La Plata
Best stadium: FNB (despite the traffic snarl getting out).
Biggest mystery: The missed goal kicks in Dunedin. It’s covered, there’s no wind, FGS!
Toughest challenge: Trying to conquer the mixed meat “platter” at Las Nazarenas Steak House in Buenos Aires. Beef, pork, goat, lamb, chicken, sausage. It covered the entire table. We (five of us) just got through it, and no-one needed breakfast the next day. Warning: If you ever go to this place, DO NOT under any circumstance order an entrée or eat the bread rolls.
Best Beer: Windhoek, for the 10th year running.
Best Steak: The pepper-crusted sirloin at the Butcher Shop and Grill, Nelson Mandela Square.
Best weather: Jozi
Worst pickpockets: Buenos Aires