After a marathon 21 weeks and some pretty impressive Super Rugby action, the rugby365.com team have identified the winners of our own prestigious awards for the season.
The standout teams, players and moments that matter have all been calculated carefully and debated thoroughly with the usual amount of whining, shouting and gnashing of teeth by our panel of selectors.
Our genuine Super Rugby brickbats and bouquets:
Player of the Tournament: Quade Cooper - the architect of the Reds' success and his unique talent and skills set is what the team have based their entire gameplan around.
Forward of the Tournament: Kieran Read - Widely regarded as the best No.8 in the world, the tough Kiwi captained the side with aplomb in Richie McCaw's absence. Read is rugby's Mr. Consistency at present, delivering outstanding performances every week. Special mention must also go to his robust teammate, Wyatt Crockett, who
Back of the Tournament: Kurtley Beale - The tip of the spear in the Waratahs attack, and he had a hand in ever good thing the Sydney franchise did throughout the season. The creative back masterminded the 'Tahs from both fullback and flyhalf (at times) and has developed a deft touch with some of his kicks that would have Carlos Spencer green with envy. An honorable mention must also go to super Sarel Pretorius who was the catalyst for all the Cheetahs' success this year.
Rookie of the Season: Sonny Bill Williams - He may already be an All Black, but the big man lived up to his reputation during his debut Super Rugby season. His off-loads have already become the latest flavor in world rugby and he knows how to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Coach of the Tournament: Ewen McKenzie - The wily Aussie was quietly confident all season, and while his nickname is 'Link' (derived from Missing Link) he definitely knows a thing or two about evolution by the way he transformed the Reds over the past two years. Bringing in the likes of Radike Samo and Beau Robinson turned out to be masterstrokes, and he turned his team of talented youngsters into champions.
Try of the Tournament: Will Genia's try in the 2011 Super Rugby Final - The Wallaby scrumhalf set the final alight with his individual 60-metre dash through what is virtually an full All Blacks line-up to clinch the trophy for his team. It is debatable whether or not it was the best try by an individual with so many fantastic five-pointers to choose from, but in terms of significance it must be the best.
Match of the Tournament: Crusaders v Sharks, March 27 (Twickenham, London) - This historic fixture was a spectacle with great tries, crunching tackles and marvellous rugby to give the deprived ex-pats from South Africa and New Zealand something to enjoy. Eat your heart out northern hemisphere rugby... and the Sharks as the Durbanites went down 44-28 to the skill and power of the Crusaders.
Comeback of the Season (Individual): Ali Williams - The Blues lock has had a torrid time with serious injuries over the past few years and has fought unbelievably hard to work his way back. Now he is just as we remembered him - hard as nails with some slick skills for a second row. A special mention must also go to Radike Samo, who was a Wallaby in 2004 before disappearing into the rugby wilderness and was plucked out of club rugby this season by Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.
Comeback of the Tournament (Team): Stormers v Blues, May 20 (Eden Park, Auckland) - Having let a big lead slip a week earlier against the Chiefs, the Stormers mounted an incredible comeback against the Blues by clawing their way back from 19-3 down to win 28-26 in an absolute thriller.
Turnaround of the Season: The Cheetahs - After the Lions finally ended their long Super Rugby losing streak with a 25-20 win in Bloemfontein (in Week Four), the Cheetahs, themselves, found their form and responded by handing the Lions a 53-19 rugby lesson in Johannesburg two months later (in Week Twelve action).
Super Rugby Loyalty Award: James Horwill, Will Genia and Quade Cooper were all part of the Reds team that suffered a 92-3 hammering at hands of the Bulls in 2007 - a game which put the Bulls en route to Super Rugby glory and resulted in plenty of ignominy for the proud Men from Brisbane. Nobody, however, was laughing anymore as the trio were able to place their champions tankard on their mantelpieces this year; all playing starring roles in the process.
Flop of the season: Danny Cipriani was expected to be the golden boy from the Melbourne Rebels, but his frail defence and overindulgence at the pub left a lot to be desired. Other contenders were expensive and ineffective Stormers prop CJ van der Linde and the whistle blowing Adam Ashley-Cooper who were well below their best all season.
Welcome to the Super Rugby '100-Club': Bakkies Botha, Neemia Tialata, Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Mark Chisholm, Tony Woodcock, Mils Muliaina, Matt Giteau and Andrew Hore all made it a (career) century of Super Rugby caps this season; joining many great players before them.
The ultimate Milestone Man: Nathan Sharpe (147 caps) became the most capped player in Super Rugby history, passing Caleb Ralph and Geroge Gregan's mark of 136 caps during the 2011 season.
Tomorrow, we will have a bit more fun as we hand out some of our... erm... wackier Super Rugby awards!
In the meantime, feel free to add some awards of your own below - the serious ones for now!!
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