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Picking the form team of The Rugby Championship so far

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images)

It’s been a wild Rugby Championship to date and we’re in for a tight finish with just two rounds left in the inaugural tournament and only one point separating the table topping All Blacks from their three southern rivals.

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The competitive landscape for teams and players is changing weekly with significant injuries and personal matters chopping and changing lineups at any moment.

To celebrate what has been the most dog-eat-dog Rugby Championship yet, here is a team of the tournament so far which includes three Wallabies, five All Blacks, five Springboks and two Pumas:

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1. James Slipper (Wallabies)

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Stepping in for Michael Hooper as Australia’s captain is a huge ask, even for a 116 cap veteran. He’s put in huge minutes and lead admirably despite the Australian scrum not being the tournaments strongest. Gave us some touches around the ruck that opened some running lines for his more mobile forwards.

2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (All Blacks)

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Samisoni Taukie’aho (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Incredible hookers are hardly in short supply in the Southern hemisphere, competition for the tournament’s top spot amongst a line-up of monstrous men is tough. Were Malcolm Marx given more minutes he might be considered the best hooker in world rugby. For Julian Montoya to be the emotional leader of the most passionate team in rugby deserves recognition in itself. However, for Taukei’aho, Making lineout accuracy look effortless, contributing to what is now a powerful front row and acting as a damaging ball runner, being the tournament’s second leading carrier, has all made for one hell of a Rugby Championship campaign.

3. Frans Malherbe (Springboks)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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It’s not a form team without a south African in the front row. The Springboks yet again have the best performing scrum in the tournament and Malherbe’s tackle numbers represent his strong work around the park. Allan Alaalatoa deserves a special mention for squaring up with Eben Etzebeth.

4. Sam Whitelock (All Blacks)

Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Father time has been kind to big Sammy, who you’ll find is often the first forward up in support after a kick despite often being the oldest on the park. His best ball carrying days are behind him but he’ll never hesitate to put his hand up. An Inspiring work rate from an All Blacks leader on and off the pitch. The most piercing memory from this tournament for most might be Koroibete’s tackle on Makizole Mapimpi, but Eben Etzebeth holding up Ardie Savea over the try line and throwing him back into his own ruck will live rent free in the minds of many rugby fans, therefore big Eben (as always) deserves an honourable mention.

5. Lood De Jager (Springboks)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Perhaps seen as the Robin to Etzebeth’s Batman, Lood de Jager performs week in week out. One of the strongest set piece players in the game, striving in the Springboks game plan. A safe pair of hands for the Springbok lineout and second only to Lavanini in tackles for a lock.

6. Siya Kolisi (Springboks)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

His running meters, tackle count and turnover work are all testament to the Springbok captains work-rate. Seventh in tackles won. The more involved he gets around the ruck, the better the Springboks are.

7. Marcos Kremer (Los Pumas)

(Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images)

His physicality is monumental, leading the tournament with 57 tackles (Argentinians make up the entirety of the top five in tackles won). It’s the nature of the tackles that makes that statistic even more remarkable, sprinting up out of the Pumas line to put a hit on the likes of Ardie Savea, Rob Valentini or Shannon Frizell.

8. Ardie Savea (All Blacks)

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

There’s only one Ardie Savea. He’s miles ahead of any other player in carries, tied for first place in offloads, third in meters carried and tied seventh for line-outs won. Post match reviews frequently mention Ardie with compliments in the realm of ” he played like a man possessed”, and for good reason. Pablo Matera’s dynamic play on top of his defensive prowess also deserves a mention.

9. Nic White (Wallabies)

Nic White
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The most effective player at getting under the other team’s (and their fanbase’s) skin in world rugby right now. The way his playmaking and vision allowed Noah Lolesio to play expansively with confidence is rare for halfbacks.

10. Richie Mo’unga (All Blacks)

(Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Has his fingerprints all over the All Blacks wins, granted that’s only half the time but as is the case for all teams. The execution in his varied kicking game against the Pumas shows what a complete attacking threat he can be. Second in overall points.

11. Marika Koroibete (Wallabies)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Effort around the park is as good as any back in the game right now, constantly showing up all over the field when needed. No comment on his tackle technique but he was man of the match in Adelaide for a reason. Makazole Mapimpi and Caleb Clarke have both had exceptional campaigns respectively, but Marika’s consistency in a tournament which has seen a real lack of game to game cohesion sets him apart.

12. Damian De Allende (Springboks)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The South African backline’s defence has been tasked with diffusing a number of attacking threats in the likes of Rieko Ioane and Hunter Paisami amongst others, De Allende has been more than up to the task. His physicality as a ball runner can have its moments but hasn’t featured so heavily this campaign.

13. Rieko Ioane (All Blacks)

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

He’s first in defenders beaten and meters carried, fourth in offloads. Always finding ways to use his pace, whether it’s beating defenders, running assist lines, or biting inside defensively only to track down his player trying to burn him on the outside. Deserved recipient of man of the match at Ellis Park. Lukhanyo Am certainly made his impact at 13 and wing before injury ended his Rugby Championship campaign.

14. Emiliano Boffelli (Los Pumas)

(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The tournament’s top overall points scorer, Boffelli was huge in the Pumas win over the All Blacks, slotting all seven of his kicks off the tee. Will Jordan comes in as a close second.

15. Damian Willemse (Springboks)

Damien Willemse
(Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

His attacking flare has been on full display in whatever position they throw at him. He’s played full back, first-five and second five, having to adapt in game due to his teams injuries but not skipping a beat. Also, the 24 year old has racked up some impressive tackle numbers.

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