Saturday’s Highlanders-Hurricanes clash brought a conclusion to the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa after the Blues-Crusaders clash was cancelled due to level three lockdowns in the Auckland region.

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The end of a high-octane 10 weeks of New Zealand Rugby has been celebrated by the selection of an official team of the season by Super Rugby.

However, the team has once again not gone down well with fans, as Super Rugby’s selection is based on surface-level stats that fail to capture other areas of importance, such as speed, vision, tempo, decision-making, strategy, and system fit.

The official team had no place for current All Black halfback Aaron Smith, who is widely regarded as being in the form of his life at the Highlanders, with Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara picked instead.

Aaron Smith’s quick tempo and lightening fast recycles at the right times led to the creation of many Highlanders’ tries, albeit the final pass was usually delivered by someone else out wide. His decision-making around when to link with his backs or play flat forward runners was often a key component of directing the Highlanders’ game.

The halfback’s running game also had a resurgence with shades of his earlier self, resulting in many breaks and good support lines. Fans asked whether Super Rugby ‘had watched any of the games’ as Aaron Smith was ‘clearly heads and shoulders’ above every other halfback, with one fan claiming he was ‘literally the player of the season.’

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The other contentious decision was Crusaders flyer Will Jordan over Hurricane Jordie Barrett for the competition’s best fullback.

The Hurricanes started 0-2 without Barrett but when he returned they went on a 5-0 run before losing their last game in the final round to the Highlanders in Dunedin. In all of the Hurricanes wins, Jordie played an important part as the primary goal kicker and key playmaker out wide.

In the head-t0-head battle between the two fullbacks in Christchurch, it was Jordie Barrett who was immense under the high ball diffusing a number of Crusaders box kicks and bombs, whilst kicking the key goals to keep his side in the game.

Against his brother when the Blues visited Wellington, Jordie Barrett nailed a clutch conversion to put the Hurricanes ahead 29-27 over the Blues with just three minutes remaining.

Will Jordan was one of the competition’s top running threats, finishing first in tries scored and second in defenders beaten and line breaks, but it is blurred by the fact that some of that was done playing on the right wing, particularly against the Highlanders in Dunedin with a scorching two-try performance while against the Blues Jordan was used as a late game substitute.

The two fullbacks won’t get a chance to face off in the North vs South game either with both picked for the South Island due to Jordie Barrett’s provincial debut with Canterbury, despite growing up in the Taranaki and his brother Beauden playing for the North.

Both Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara will play for the North Island having debuted at provincial level for Manawatu and Wellington respectively.

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