Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx was the only South African player deemed good enough to crack Rugby World Magazine’s Team of the Year for 2018.
The renowned monthly rugby publication canvassed writers from 12 countries to select a team that features the top performers in 2018.
In line with the current World Rugby rankings, New Zealand accounted for the largest contingent of five players while Ireland checked in with four, two England players got the nod and the final four spots were filled by one player from each of Australia, Fiji, South Africa and Wales.
Despite being in the spotlight for an inconsistent Bok lineout this year, Marx’s worth in general play – as a rampaging runner and destructive force on defence, and his central role in a bulldozing scrum – was recognised by the panel of writers. The 2017 SA Rugby Player of the Year was almost joined in the front row by a familiar face, but Steven Kitshoff narrowly lost out to Mako Vunipola (England) in the race for the No1 jersey.
Packing down on the right side of Marx is Ireland tighthead Tadgh Furlong, the only unanimous selection to the team. Leone Nakarawa represents Fiji in a second-row partnership with 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year, Brodie Retallick.
While blindside flankers do the donkey work, the memory of openside flankers making vital steals often sticks in the mind. This may explain why the writers selected two ball-hawks in the back row, with Peter O’Mahony at 6 and David Pocock at 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit has reason to believe he did enough to warrant selection here.
It was also too difficult for the panel to choose between the flyhalf talents of Beauden Barrett, Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell as the voters picked the Ireland pivot at 10, found room for Farrell at inside centre and decided that Barrett’s cameo’s at fullback were ample to secure the 15 jersey.
Few would argue against Rieko Ioane lining up on the left wing, but it’s somewhat surprising that he won all but two of the 12 votes in the face of a stiff challenge from Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Rugby World Magazine: 2018 Team of the Year
15 Beauden Barrett (NZ)
14 Ben Smith (NZ)
13 Jonathan Davies (WAL)
12 Owen Farrell (ENG)
11 Rieko Ioane (NZ)
10 Johnny Sexton (IRE)
9 Conor Murray (IRE)
8 Kieran Read (NZ)
7 David Pocock (AUS)
6 Peter O’Mahony (IRE)
5 Leone Nakarawa (FIJ)
4 Brodie Retallick (NZ)
3 Tadgh Furlong (IRE)
2 Malcolm Marx (SA)
1 Mako Vunipola (ENG)