Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pick your greatest Tri Nations XV

The 11 years of the Tri-Nations has produced some exceptional rugby played by exceptional players so it's no easy task to pick the best team from the all players who have graced this competition from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
At sportasylum, not only have we put on the imaginary selectors cap and come up with our Greatest Tri-Nations XV, we have asked rugby legends like Frank Bunce, Eric Rush and Martin Johnson to pick their greatest side also.
First we started with the easy bit, the three players who selected themselves. We would be greatly surprised if any intelligent rugby fan omitted Sean Fitzpatrick, John Eales or Jonah Lomu from their greatest Tri-Nations team.
The real trouble was picking their 12 team-mates.


At fullback, with an honourable mention to Andre Joubert, the choice came down to Christian Cullen or Matt Burke. Either player was superior to anything on offer in the current Tri-Nations, and Cullen, the competition's leading try-scorer, gets the call.

On the other wing to Lomu, which player from Jeff Wilson, Joe Roff, James Small or Stefan Terblanche do you choose? Can you include David Campese who only played in the 1996 tournament when Australia secured a solitary victory? Roff, with eight tries to Wilson's five, gets the other wing spot.Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko, who have scored tries at an exceptional rate in recent seasons, can feel themselves unlucky and if they continue their excellent form will force their way into the reckoning.

The centres provide an embarrassment of riches. There have been many great players to have worn the number 12 or 13 shirts, including Daniel Herbert, Walter Little, Jason Little, Japie Mulder, Tana Umaga and De Wet Barry. But selectors chose Frank Bunce and Tim Horan, who they feel were not only the best players but would make an exciting combination.


Riches also abound in the flyhalf position; which was probably the hardest to select. Do you opt for the astute Andrew Mehrtens or the attack-minded, but flaky, Carlos Spencer? At his best, Australia's Steve Larkham makes a pressing case, as does South Africa's Henry Honiball. Larkham gets the nod because he combined the best elements of Spencer and Mehrtens and has outlasted the contenders.On present form Dan Carter will one day fill this position, but the same thing could have been said about Spencer before he choked at the 2003 World Cup. Carter needs to prove himself on the biggest stage before he can usurp Larkham, or Mehrtens for that matter.


There are many outstanding choices at scrumhalf, so let's keep it simple and choose from the best each country has offered: Australia's George Gregan in the early years of the tournament was imperious, while Justin Marshall was the pick of many quality All Black number nines but probably Joost van der Westhuizen deserves the job.

Number eight
The selectors would have been happy with any of the leading cadidates from each country: Gary Teichmann, Totai Kefu or Zinzan Brooke. It's a choice between Brooke's superior ball skills or the inspirational Teichman which Brooke wins by a short, back-handed pass.
It's a matter of personal preference when it comes to selecting the breakaways because there is no shortage of talent. Andre Venter, Josh Kronfeld, Owen Finegan, David Wilson, George Smith, the list goes on.Richie McCaw has been outstanding for New Zealand on the openside. Francois Pienaar would be our selection on the blindside but, like Campese, he only played in 1996 so he wasn't considered. Instead on the blindside the selectors opted for Michael Jones.The South African duo of Schalk Burger and Joe van Nierkerk came next closest of the modern players to earn a call-up, but the selectors felt they had not fully proved themselves yet.

Joining John Eales in the second row, and at the expense of Victor Matfield, Robin Brooke and Dan Vickerman, is New Zealand's exceptionally gifted Ian Jones.
Finally the frontrow. Sean Fitzpatrick has already walked into the hooker's job and his loosehead prop is South Africa's Os Du Rant while at tighthead his old scrummage mate Olo Brown

sportasylum's Greatest Tri-Nations XV

1. Olo Brown (NZ)2. Sean Fitzpatrick (NZ)3. Os du Rant (SA)4. Ian Jones (NZ)5. John Eales (Aus)6. Michael Jones(NZ)7. Richie McCaw (NZ)8. Zinzan Brooke (NZ)9. Joost van der Westhuizen (SA)10. Steve Larkham (Aus)11. Joe Roff (Aus)12. Tim Horan (Aus)13. Frank Bunce (NZ)14. Jonah Lomu (NZ)15. Christian Cullen (NZ)

Martin Johnson's Greatest Tri-Nations XV
15. Andre Joubert14. Joe Roff13. Tana Umaga12. Tim Horan11. Jonah Lomu10. Andrew Mehrtens9. Joost van der Westhuizen8. Zinzan Brooke 7. Richie McCaw 6. Andre Venter5. John Eales4. Robin Brooke3. Carl Hayman2. Kevin Mealamu1. Os du Randt

Frank Bunce's Greatest Tri-Nations XV

Eric Rush's Greatest Tri-Nations XV

Graham and Jake seem to have been forgotten in the 7 Wonders so they tried to play the top XV of the Tri Nations, but they had too many players in mind so...
All we want is the top XV of the 2007 World cup, so take your time, Mister Henry!

oups! mister White...

ps : what do you think of Piri's new hair-style? it's quite (let's say) special, no?

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