Team of the Season

Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke and team-mate Liam Messam lift the Super Rugby trophy, Chiefs v Sharks, Super Rugby Final, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, August 4, 2012 Getty Images

The curtain came down on another thrilling season of Super Rugby on Saturday, with the Chiefs winning a maiden title after seeing off the Sharks in Hamilton. Here, we recap the finest the southern hemisphere had to offer in 2012 with our Super Rugby Team of the Season.

15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes)

The 'Canes produced a mixed bag again this season but Taylor was a major influence. Lightning quick and capable of playing rugby with almost childlike glee, he lit up a number of games and dominated the try-scoring charts. Special mention also goes to the excellent Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs.

14. JP Pietersen (Sharks)

The Springbok winger was one of the major reasons that the Sharks made a surprise trip to the final. He flitted between the wing and outside-centre all year but brought the same things to the table every time - great feet, out and out pace and a superb work-rate.

13. Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)

Just a joy to watch at times. Right up there with the world's best players, Smith produced some excellent form throughout the campaign and will be sorely missed by the All Blacks when they kick-off their Rugby Championship campaign.

12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs)

New Zealand will miss him. Sonny Bill's off to Japan and then the NRL, but Chiefs fans will at least have the memories to call on. This was his best season in union and he bought into the Chiefs' spirit, producing mature displays along with his usual block-busting runs and off-loads.

11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls)

The Bulls aren't the power they once were, but this season they did at least have one of the sharpest finishers in the game in good nick. Basson provided a cutting edge to the Bulls' conservative gameplan and produced the try-scoring form he became famous for with the Griquas.

10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)

Certainly Dan Carter's anointed successor in the eyes of many. Produced a series of thrilling performances as the Chiefs won a maiden title and also proved that he can manage a game from start to finish under pressure.

9. Will Genia (Reds)

Rugby's own little master, Genia was once again in sparkling form despite the Reds failing to live up to the billing as reigning champions. A constant running threat and arguably the best passer in the game, it was a one-man show at times.

1. Sona Taumalolo (Chiefs)

World rugby's most dangerous player from a yard out. Quite aside from his remarkable tally of nine tries, Taumalolo was a constant star in a hard-working Chiefs side. He scrummaged well and showed up around the field, always ready for work.

2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)

Combative, powerful and very, very consistent. Bismarck was at the heart of the Sharks' run to the final and underlined his status as the world's best hooker.

3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)

One of the world game's best tight-heads, he anchored the Crusaders' destructive scrum for the larger part of the season and made their set-piece a formidable weapon.

4. Craig Clarke (Chiefs)

One half of the Chiefs' leadership team, Clarke epitomised coach Dave Rennie's plan to field a team of "hard-working, honest buggers". Played 80 minutes in the final on an injured knee and gave the Chiefs' sometimes-shaky lineout focus all season.

5. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers)

One of the finds of the season, Etzebeth broke into the Stormers side after injuries opened up a spot in the second-row and made it his own. Secured a Springbok bow against England and provided one of the YouTube moments of the season by flattening Bismarck du Plessis in the semi-final.

6. Liam Messam (Chiefs)

The other half of the Chiefs' captaincy team, Messam enjoyed a superb season. Adding a dose of hard-graft to his prodigious running game, he was inspirational. Man of the Match in the final to boot.

7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks)

Another new face to emerge with South Africa in June, Coetzee's elevation to Test rugby followed on from a great domestic season. Has an engine that just keeps going and will now be out to establish himself in a Springbok jersey following the returns of Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow.

8. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)

They may have fallen short of a play-off place to the fast-finishing Reds, but the Brumbies were a different proposition this season than in recent years. Under Jake White they were dogged and hard to beat, and Mowen led from the front throughout. Next step must be to compete with the best from New Zealand and South Africa.