Team of the Month - when the stars align
OPINION: The year-end Tests have come and gone, with some interesting and intriguing results.
The top four – Ireland, France, New Zealand and South Africa cemented their reputations just 10 months out from the World Cup.
The only change – from November 1 to 28 – is the All Blacks overtaking the Springboks in this place.
It is not a surprise that the bulk of my selection comes from the top four – South Africa (five), Ireland (four), New Zealand (two) and France (one).
Scotland (two) and Argentina (one) make up the numbers.
My backup squad features six French players, three more from Ireland, two Springboks and an All Black.
Italy and Scotland (one each) make up the numbers.
Jan de Koning names his Team of the Month for November!
15 – Willie le Roux (South Africa)
It is amazing that some so-called ‘pundits’ still don’t grasp his value to the Springbok team. For any remaining doubters, go watch his role on organising the Bok attack and the number of times he appears as first receiver in South Africa’s 27-13 demolition of England on the final weekend.
Bubbling under: Ange Capuozzo (Italy)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa)
Was there ever any doubt? Forget the hundreds of metres he made with ball in hand (there were 103 just in the game against England) or the five tries he scored in the four games (two of which were on the left wing), it was that sublime swerve to leave Marcus Smith for dead that showed his true class and finishing ability.
Bubbling under: Mack Hansen (Ireland)
🇿🇦 He just cannot stop scoring!
Kurt-Lee Arendse is a superstar 🌟
What a try from the @Springboks 🔥#AutumnNationsSeries | #ENGvRSA pic.twitter.com/T75NhKJJoB
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 26, 2022
13 – Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
Featured only in the key games, but his impressive form against South Africa in Round One is what set him aside from a rather limited chasing bunch.
Bubbling under: Gael Fickou (France)
12 – Stuart McCloskey (Ireland)
Another player from the Emerald Isle that stepped up when it mattered most. Combined particularly well with Johnny Sexton. His value was underpinned by injury-enforced absence from the second half against South Africa – his big hits rattling the Springboks in an impressive first half.
Bubbling under: Jonathan Danty (France)
11 – Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina)
I was tempted to select Arendse on both wings, as he was the best on whichever side he played. Same applies to Hansen, who also featured at both right and left win in November Tests. However, Boffelli is not just a devastating finisher, but was also his team’s premier goal-kicker. Was particularly impressive in his team’s win over England in Round One – scoring 25 of his team’s 30 points. He scored a fantastic try and produced a masterclass in goal-kicking with six penalties and a conversion.
Bubbling under: Yoram Moefana (France)
10 – Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
This was perhaps my toughest decision, Romain Ntamack and Johnny Sexton were light years ahead of the rest, who all produced a mixed bag. Both produced their best games against South Africa – showing up the vulnerabilities of the Boks. Sexton got my vote for his masterclass against the Springboks and was the catalyst of an Ireland team that comfortably held onto their No.1 ranking.
Bubbling under: Romain Ntamack (France)
9 – Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
As always produced a quicksilver service from the base, with his qualities best emphasised when he was replaced in the final quarter at Twickenham and England stormed back to earn an unlikely draw. Exuded authority and remains the finest distributor of the ball around.
Bubbling under: Francois de Klerk (South Africa)
8 – Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
It is a DISGRACE that he was not in the running for Player of the Year – and that is based on his November form only. Savea was a vital presence in a New Zealand side that enjoyed an unbeaten year-end series – a constant menace with the ball in hand and on defence, winning five turnovers over the three matches.
Bubbling under: Gregory Alldritt (France)
7 – Charles Ollivon (France)
Was a menace in defence, with his tackle count constantly into double digits, also excelled at the breakdown. Often used as a ball carrier when his team needed to get momentum and showed some decent off-loading skills.
Bubbling under: Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
6 – Siyamthanda Kolisi (South Africa)
Let me say it up front, he is not a traditional No.6 – be that in South African terms or the rest of the world. Kolisi has developed into a very good hybrid. He has won some crucial turnovers, carries well in the wider channels, is a major asset on defence and attended more rucks in November than he has done for most of his career.
Bubbling under: Shannon Frizell (New Zealand)
5 – James Ryan (Ireland)
He was excellence personified, especially in a stand-out performance in Week One against South Africa. Was the engineer of the excellent Irish maul defence that was crucial to knotting up the South African attack. Stole some crucial line-outs and had a huge tackle count throughout.
Bubbling under: Grant Gilchrist (Scotland)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Another player that can truly feel aggrieved he did not feature in the Player of the Year shortlist. Without doubt the stand-out lock in 2022. His nearly 300 minutes was topped by only two Springbok teammates – Damian de Allende and Damian Willemse, who both clocked a full-house 320 minutes from four matches.
Bubbling under: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
🤸♂️ The flip
💅 The hair flick@fafdeklerk styles it out 😎#AutumnNationsSeries | @Springboks pic.twitter.com/yRvCW3SPxK
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 28, 2022
3 – Zander Fagerson (Scotland)
Outside of flyhalf, the toughest selection. The Scotsman’s work rate outside of the scrums, where he was very impressive, saw him edge Tadhg Furlong and Jozua Malherbe.
Bubbling under: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
2 – Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
Unlike the Springbok coach, I believe Marx should start. His work at the breakdown and on defence makes life decidedly unpleasant for the opposition and he has a huge appetite for carrying the ball – often getting over the advantage line.
Bubbling under: Julien Marchand (France)
1 – Pierre Schoeman (Scotland)
Has his moments of ‘weakness’ in the scrums, but generally solid in the set pieces. His immense work rate is what sets him aside from a very impressive chasing pack. The South African-borne loosehead was regularly found charging into – and through – defenders. Some lovely hands too.
Bubbling under: Steven Kitshoff (South Africa)