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And Super Rugby's players of 2013 are...

We have some good news for Springbok fans as the SuperWrap announces its Super Rugby teams of the year. There are six new South African faces in our Super XV.

The Super XV, for the uninitiated, is a team selected on a weekly basis by our four-strong selection panel and in answer to only this question: who was the best in a particular position this past weekend? The Bok Barometer is selected in the same way, but limited to players that are eligible to play for South Africa and represents one of our teams.

Then, once a year, we add up instances of selection and the players with the most ticks behind their names get in our team for the year. It is a time-honoured Wrap tradition and, theoretically, it should give us a list of players who held their form the longest in this marathon season that is now winding down.

Today is one of those special days, and we’re glad you could join us. Put on your selector’s cap and start digging through those memory banks. We’d love to hear where and how you disagree with us.

The South African onslaught on this year’s competition was mainly lead by the two inland teams, and it therefore comes as no surprise that it is the Cheetahs and the Bulls that dominate both the Bok Barometer as well as the African chunk of the Super XV.

Not only have we doubled our headcount in this Anzac & African Lions team, but the fact that all six our players are new to the team will be the biggest cause for celebration.

Just as remarkable is the fact that for three of our players in the Super XV team it was their first full season at this level. To be considered the best in your position so early in your career is the mark of a special talent.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will undoubtedly be more than pleased with these breakthroughs, as he now has far more to work with than he did last year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These improved performances at Super level teach us nothing about what we can expect from the Boks in this year’s Rugby Championship.

The unfortunate fact is that Australia has also done a whole lot better. In 2012 they had no representatives in the Super XV, but this year we see Will Genia return to his usual position of best scrumhalf this side of the equator while Digby Ioane racked up enough good performances in mid-season to squeeze in at left wing ahead of the likes of Hosea Gear and Julian Savea.

They also missed out on selection by a cat’s whisker in four other positions. Israel Folau and Scott Higginbotham ended up one tick short, while Benn Robinson and Stephen Moore were actually tied with our eventual selectees, but missed out because they either didn’t make the play-offs or were bettered in a one-on-one with the guy who did crack the nod.

In Australia’s case Super Rugby form is even less of a predictor of what will happen when we re-gather in a couple of weeks for International action. They recently lost a series against the Lions and their Super teams seemed drained by that experience when they returned to provincial level. They also have a new coach who is certain to differ quite a bit from his predecessor when it comes to philosophy and selection.

Neither of those two things are necessarily a bad thing though, as Springbok fans can gladly attest. It was a loss against the Lions that woke us up from our post-amateur slumber and sent us away on a world-record winning run in the late nineties. Two of our three Tri-Nations titles have also been won with a coach having a first go at it.

And then, as always, there is New Zealand. They also have more than enough reason to feel confident about their chances ahead of the southern hemisphere’s four-nation showpiece. They may have seen their player count in the Super XV almost halved, but their seven representatives are still the most of any country.

Their Super teams also seem to have all the momentum after the June break, and already they are guaranteed a finalist.

Are they the best, though? Cross conference results say not. New Zealand teams managed to lose 60% of their matches against Australian opposition, while they could only draw level in matches against a South African conference they used to dominate. In contrast, South African teams won 12 out of their 20 matches against the Aussies and rubbed in some further salt with a Kings draw in candid Canberra.

It leaves us in a position where, after half-a-year’s worth of inter-franchise frenzy, we know nothing about what will happen once the curtains finally close on this Super season. We know nothing about who the favourite should be for this year’s Rugby Championship. And we think that is just marvellous.

For those of us who have grown tired of one country dominating rugby in the southern hemisphere, it's a nothing that really matters.

Here are our teams for 2013:

Super XV:
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders), 14. Frank Halai (Blues), 13. Rene Ranger (Blues), 12. Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11. Digby Ioane (Reds), 10. Morne Steyn (Bulls), 9. Will Genia (Reds), 8. Kieran Read (Crusaders), 7. Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs), 6. Liam Messam (Chiefs), 5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), 3. Ben Afeaki (Chiefs), 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs).

This year we’ve had an unusually high number of ties and close seconds, so it’s only fair to also name a bench comprising of those players who just missed the cut.

16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies), 17. Benn Robinson (Waratahs), 18. Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 19. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels), 20. Piri Weepu (Blues), 21. Dan Carter (Crusaders), 22. Israel Folau (Waratahs).

Bok Barometer:
15. Joe Pietersen (Stromers), 14. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13. JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), 12. Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11. Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs), 10. Morne Steyn (Bulls), 9. Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs), 8. Pierre Spies (Bulls), Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs), 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), 3. Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs).

16. Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), 17. Tendai Mtwarira (Sharks), 18. Franco van der Merwe (Sharks), 19. Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), 20. Jano Vermaak (Bulls), 21. Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs), 22. Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks).

Match of the week:

Credit once again goes to the Crusaders this week, with that clinical dismantling of new Wallaby coach Ewan McKenzie’s Reds side. The 38-9 scoreline will cause all kinds of shivers for those who remain in the competition, and if it wasn’t for the fact that they will have to leave their Christchurch lair, we may as well have saved everyone some blushes and just handed them the trophy.

Here are the highlights:

Please note that video footage is rights restricted, and therefore only available in regions that fall within SuperSport’s broadcast footprint.

This video is not available in your region

Try of the week:

Our try of the week comes from the same match, and was chosen specifically to annoy those of you who constantly complain about tight forwards standing out in the backline.

Then again, we can think of one or two South African centres that can take lessons from this lock when it comes to running angles.

This video is not available in your region

Congratulations to:

Matt Todd and Jake Schatz, who both played in their 50th Super Rugby match this past weekend.

Twitter files:

Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:

Tommy Tourist this week goes to Cheetahs prop Lourens Adriaanse. He enjoyed the sights of Sydney so much that he decided to take a whole bunch of pictures of himself.
He should have followed the shining light that is Ligtoring Landman. The lock enjoyed Sydney in a way we're far more familiar with.
David Pocock has some new reading material. We're not sure why he would read this, but there is a lot we're not sure about when it comes to Australian sport nowadays.
Speaking of which. The Brumbies started their preparations this week with a game of cricket. All we could think of was that it was inspired by their Ashes heroes, and as such, perfect preparation for what will happen to them at Loftus on Saturday.

Cheerful Cheetahs

While we were all mesmerised by the Toyota Cheetahs’ battle to stay in the play-off competition, we missed the goings on in Bloemfontein, where a much more important task – to find new Cheetahs cheerleaders was taking place.

Rumour has it that this video is the main reason Robert Ebersohn is heading to France, but see if you can pick out the other two Cheetahs trying out as cheerleaders

Oh sorry, this is yours...

With all the bluster over the past few years about the conference trophy (especially from those in the Cape), it was rather funny to see the New Zealanders actually forgot to hand over the trophy to the Chiefs.

The conference trophy was finally handed to captain Liam Messam 10 days too late after an administrative blunder by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

New Zealand Rugby Union general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorenson, made the presentation at the Chiefs' Ruakura headquarters and apologised for not doing it sooner, stuff.co.nz reported.

The trophy was handed to Chiefs co-captains Craig Clarke and Liam Messam in front of their teammates at Tuesday’s training session as they prepare for Saturday's Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium.

''This is probably a trophy you should have been given a couple of weeks ago in Auckland,'' Sorenson said in presenting the silverware.

''And that was a mistake on our behalf, so I apologise for that...I know getting something like this four days before a massive game is not something high on your priority list, but that's just the way it goes,'' he said.

Boo who?

The idiots of the week award goes to every booing fan who had a go at Quade Cooper in Saturday’s play-off match in Christchurch.

While we’re not immune to booing here in South Africa, there is a concerted campaign to try and stop it at stadiums, and bring back some form of sportsmanship.

But considering the quality of player Cooper is, it simply has gone too far in New Zealand and should be stopped. One scribe had a full go in The Press, Christchurch’s local newspaper, as he laid into fans who love to knock QC.

“It's childish, petty, thoughtless and does nothing for Canterbury sports fans' already average reputation. And those who think it made a difference on Saturday night are wrong. The Crusaders outplayed the Reds' forwards and that shut Cooper and Will Genia down; idiots booing and acting like they belong in a zoo had nothing to do with it. The anonymity of a crowd makes people pretty tough, doesn't it. You can't seriously tell me the people who booed Cooper on Saturday night would do it to his face if they saw him walking down the street.

"It's cowardly and embarrassing,” he wrote.

“Sometimes I wonder if it's worth writing this, the type of people that boo and abuse players probably can't read anyway. If you dislike the bloke so much, first of all give yourself an uppercut - you don't even know him - then don't go to the game.”

Its not often we agree with the Kiwis, but here we’ll make an exception…

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