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ONE News Now's 'premature' Super Rugby Awards

It's been a polarising half-year of rugby so far with the criticism of the Super Rugby expansion and the format so it's time to reward those who have distinguished or disgraced the great Southern competition.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR (ROUND ROBIN)

In a team sport, one man can rarely carry a side through to the finish on a regular basis but Beauden Barrett has gone close.

In his battle for the coveted All Blacks No.10 jersey, Barrett was falling well short with his goal-kicking, missing regulation shots at goal.

This was contrasting with his attacking brilliance – no one could doubt his running game was still the best in the land.

Come Test time and Barrett went up a notch and carried his form through to the last three Super Rugby rounds. His running game was less pronounced but still a threat but more importantly to the selectors and his Hurricanes team, he controlled and kicked his goals.

He owned the strategy and drove the Canes around the back, still popping in for moments of class. If the Canes in, he'll be the driving force.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Even before his season is done, Johan Ackermann has transformed the Lions from the weak link in South Africa to the team to beat.

Up until his resting of players for the Jaguares loss, the Lions had fashioned an 11-3 record with a two Kiwi scalps. More so, the Lions have been playing with width and positivity to match the bludgeoning forward pack they have.

Ackermann's team deserve to be where they are and the franchise turnaround is the biggest factor in this gong.

DUD OF THE YEAR - MINOR

Who else but the Southern Kings.

Two wins from 16, a negative points difference of 402 at an average expense of 43 points a game and generally just providing dross on a weekly basis. They did however finish higher than the Sunwolves but the brave boys from Japan had more than 25 fans and will in time provide some colour and interest to the competition.

Here's hoping 2017 is a happier year for them.

The Force have been woeful too but the Kings were nothing new, just an example of the true depth of South African rugby.

DUD OF THE YEAR - MAJOR

The competition.The draw, the expansion, the format, the travel, the vibe, Marbo....The less said the better as it's been covered for months but for rugby powers to act so quickly (as they've suggested they are), something must be broke.

If the Chiefs coach says it's unfair that they could win their conference and still have to play a Kiwi team in the quarterfinals. Source: 1 NEWS

Let's wait and see what 2017 brings but on a ludicrousness scale, Super Rugby 2016 and its logistics has been the most haphazard competition structure in the history of stupidity. And on that note...

AIRPOINTS AWARD

They had obviously checked the map before signing up to the competition but the Jaguares have earned their Koru Club equivalency and then some. They started in South Africa, then returned home, New Zealand then home again via Tokyo which by the way isn’t on the way to Buenos Aires. A couple of weeks at home then it was back to South Africa (both ends) before flying home again. The Sunwolves have had it rough too but they never came to New Zealand.

BEST TRY

Well, we can wipe out the Brumbies from this category. Earlier in the season, the Chiefs scored long range tries for fun and Damian McKenzie’s hand was in most, especially the opening try against the Force and a late Brad Weber dart against the Brumbies. Matias Morini of the Jaguares going 90 metres late against the Chiefs showed what was possible from the newbies but the sweeping movement for Dan Pryor’s try against the Chiefs in the final round was 24-carat continuity and came with the most importance. It was clinical and takes the cake.

BEST GAME

As the stakes have grown higher, the spike in intensity has been obvious. The Hurricanes' win in Sydney was a Trans-Tasman classic, the Chiefs last throes win in Argentina had the drama but the last round at Forsyth Barr had it all.

High-pace, brutality, new-age skill, the atmosphere and the stars of the game shining was the complete package.

BREAKOUT KIWI PLAYER

Even though his star waned slightly around Test time, Damian McKenzie lit the wick for the Chiefs and has everyone talking. A penchant for constant pizazz was a surmountable issue as defences worked him out but in the last few weeks he got some of his attacking game working again.

The Blues' Melani Nanai was able to slice open defences with individual skill alone and Matt Faddes from the Highlanders put himself into the next bracket of players too.

As always, players emerge from the grade below and the likes of Michael Fatialofa, Taleni Seu and Anton Lienert-Brown have impressed amongst others. McKenzie however has risen the sharpest.

STANDOUT PERFORMANCE

Sam Cane’s Round 17 effort was an emphatic answer to doubters of his ability to shine in the dark depth of forward play.

Tireless as always, Cane's right shoulder was atomic and several times against the Highlanders a double take was needed, especially when he shook up tighthead Siosuia Halanukonuka.

However, in the week's post the Test window, All Blacks blindside Jerome Kaino pulled off three trademark matches on the trot reminding all and sundry he's still No.1 in the No.6.

Four tries across three games, ox-strength in mauls, marauding tackles and some keen leadership combined to get the Blues closer to where they wanted to get to.

UPSET OF THE YEAR

While the win itself wasn’t an upset, the scoreline was. 35-10 against the Crusaders in Christchurch was a massive statement as was the Hurricanes 50-17 thumping of the Lions.

As far as upset results go, the eternally competitive Stormers drawing 17-17 with the Sunwolves in Singapore was a huge surprise.

A mere month after being demolished 92-17 by the underachieving Cheetahs, the Sunwolves made a major step (albeit fleeting) towards being taken seriously.

DICK(s) OF THE YEAR

Nate Myles would have been sitting back thinking, what an amateur when he heard about Dane Haylett-Petty urinating in a public place during their South African road trip then breaking a hotel vase.

That was trumped during the same session as captain Pek Cowan tried to start up the team bus to get some midnight snacks.

When a team is awful, these indiscretions don’t help and the Force should take a leaf from the Western Australian women’s team sponsor; the Alcohol - Think Again campaign.

What ever happened to ‘what goes on tour….’?