As Super Rugby remains at a standstill amid the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s almost certain we’ve seen the end of the competition as we know it for this year.
Instead, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa look set to continue their respective conference campaigns with domestic competitions.
In a bid to acknowledge the seven rounds of action that played out before the regular competition came to a close, here’s a XV made up of the best players from the first – and probably only – seven weeks of the season.
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1) James Slipper (Brumbies)
The Wallabies veteran’s move from Brisbane last year proved to be a success, as his high involvement in general play and solidity at scrum time worked wonders for the Brumbies.
The 30-year-old subsequently forced Wallabies incumbent Scott Sio for most of the campaign, and looms as a prominent figure for Australia boss Dave Rennie.
2) Codie Taylor (Crusaders)
However, we still saw enough from the All Blacks incumbent to show why he’s the best hooker in the country through his robust style of play and significant work rate.
In a Crusaders side missing a raft of key players from years gone by, Taylor remains a key cog in the reigning champions’ roster.
3) Taniela Tupou (Reds)
It’s hard to go past one of the most destructive ball-runners in the game, who continues to inflict damage on almost every team he plays against.
The Tongan Thor dominated that stat charts in every attacking aspect for Super Rugby props, leading the competition for running metres, line breaks, tackle busts, offloads and tries.
That’s a tough act to beat, so it should be no surprise to see Tupou heavily involved in Rennie’s Wallabies set-up later in the year.
4) Guido Petti (Jaguares)
The Jaguares weren’t exactly as dominant compared to last year when they finished as defeat finalists, but star lock Guido Petti hasn’t let his standards dip.
The 25-year-old remains a force to be reckoned in his core role at the lineout, where he led the competition with 34 wins and five opposition steals.
Petti’s physicality hasn’t gone amiss either, and he will act as a guiding light for years to come within Argentine rugby.
Honourable mentions: Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Caderyn Neville (Brumbies)
5) Michael Stolberg (Sunwolves)
Few would have predicted that Michael Stolberg would have such an impact for the Sunwolves in their final Super Rugby campaign.
The Australian lock had other ideas, though, as he shone in a dismal Sunwolves outfit to jointly lead the competition with Petti in lineout wins and steals.
Stolberg also impressed with ball in hand to bag his fair share of tries and running metres and establish himself as one of the Sunwolves’ best in their five-season existence.
6) Cullen Grace (Crusaders)
The 20-year-old was an unheralded recruit by the reigning champions, but played with commitment and determination as if he’d been playing Super Rugby for years.
Grace’s defensive tenacity, superb work at the breakdown and safety at the set piece has placed him in good stead for an All Blacks call-up later in the year.
Honourable mentions: Rob Valetini (Brumbies)
7) Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs)
Primarily seen donning the No. 6 jersey this season, Lachlan Boshier is a natural openside whose game went to another level for the Chiefs in the opening seven rounds this year.
Forced to accommodate the presence of Sam Cane, Boshier capitalised on Luke Jacobson’s injury-enforced absence to wreak havoc defensively against every team he faced.
The 25-year-old made a menace of himself at the breakdown, tackled his heart out and was bruising on attack, and an international debut doesn’t seem far off the reckoning.
8) Hoskins Sotutu (Blues)
To be able to continually dislodge Akira Ioane from the Blues’ starting lineup is no mean feat, but youngster Hoskins Sotutu did so convincingly in the early stages of the season.
The 21-year-old started in all but one of the Blues’ fixtures, and did so with devastating impact with ball in hand.
Sotutu led the competition for running metres, line breaks and tackle busts for loose forwards and stands as genuine prospect for All Blacks selection in 2020.
9) Brad Weber (Chiefs)
The nippy 29-year-old remains the heartbeat of the Chiefs and flourished in the competition’s attacking statistics for halfbacks.
Given his influence with ball in hand and astute running game, expect Weber to increase his tally of five test caps in the coming months.
10) Curwin Bosch (Sharks)
The Sharks sit atop the Super Rugby standings while the competition remains suspended, and much of that can be accredited to the work of Curwin Bosh.
The young playmaker was been sensational for the Durban club through a mix of his tidy running ability, tactical nous and booming boot.
If Springboks selection was confined purely to Super Rugby players, Bosch would be a frontrunner for the No. 10 jersey, but he certainly stands as a contender for the future.
11) Mark Telea (Blues)
Considering the amount of talent laden in the Blues’ backline, not many would have picked Mark Telea to have shone as brightly as he did between January and March.
In his first season of Super Rugby, the fleet-footed North Harbour product burst onto the scene to establish himself as one of the league’s most lethal attacking weapons.
An All Blacks call-up may be a bit premature at this stage, but if he can maintain that form in the imminent New Zealand competition, Telea could press his case for the All Blacks XV.
12) James O’Connor (Reds)
What a comeback it has been for a player who most thought we had seen the last of on Australian soil.
The maturity and development in James O’Connor’s game was been evident in the way in which he led his young Reds side around the park from No. 10 and No. 12 this season.
His playmaking ability is second to none, and both Queensland and Australia are in good hands over the coming years if O’Connor remains in both set-ups.
13) Rieko Ioane (Blues)
Many questioned Rieko Ioane’s positional switch to the midfield leading into the 2020 campaign due to his defensive frailties, but the All Blacks star has silenced his critics.
Assistant coach Tana Umaga’s influence over the 23-year-old has been clear to see, as his transition further in-field was seamless from an attacking perspective.
Ioane’s defensive output improved as well, adding an extra string to his tremendous bow and making him an invaluable member of this promising Blues outfit.
Honourable mentions: Joe Marchant (Blues), Braydon Ennor (Crusaders)
14) Andrew Kellaway (Rebels)
Add to that the amount of clean breaks he made and the number of metres he ran, and a unlikely Wallabies call-up seems far more realistic at this stage.
15) Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
As one of the most electric players in Super Rugby this year, Sharks speedster Aphelele Fassi deserves the fullback spot in this side.
The 22-year-old tore apart defences across the Southern Hemisphere, leading the competition for running metres and coming close in the clean breaks and defenders beaten charts.
South Africa already have a plethora of outside backs at their disposal, but Fassi must be enticing option for new Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber.
Honourable mentions: Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), David Havili (Crusaders)
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