I THINK the most appropriate theme of the Super Rugby and representative seasons can best be encapsulated in the phrase 'beautifully brutal'.
I've thought long and hard and come up with five of the best for 2013.
Beautifully brutal highlight number five was the resurgence of the Tahs.
For rugby to be strong in this country, we need Sydney to be 'working'. Although not a stellar year in terms of wins, but on the back of their positive approach, home crowds and positive media space were up significantly.
The selection of Michael Cheika as head coach had the Tahs playing with positive intent in attack, characterising the beautifully brutal nature of our code in 2013.
Beautifully brutal highlight number four was the British and Irish Lions tour. These types of tours form a component of the code's competitive advantage over our contact-team-sport competitors, AFL and rugby league. It was not the result we were after, but having the world's second highest profile team (after the All Blacks) in an old-school-type tour of our country was a very effective marketing tool for the game.
The very essence of beautifully brutal was highlight number three - the Chiefs v Crusaders' knockout semi-final in Hamilton? Positive intent, backed up with brutal defence combined to offer us 80 minutes of brutally beautiful contact team-sport entertainment.
And what about Israel Folau? 'Izzy' is beautifully brutal in flight and highlight number two. He showed a natural aptitude for rugby from his first trial with the Tahs, and improved in every game. His game knowledge, off-load ability and fluency of feet in attack were a delight to watch.
Drum roll please. Beautifully brutal highlight number one of the season so far is … George Smith. He epitomises the professional rugby player circa 2013. Enough has been written by me about the bloke, but his fourth round 'hit' on Izzy and his game-after-game pilfering around the ruck area were remarkable. It won't be too long before he has his name to a few awards, that's for sure.
And there we are. The five best highlights that represent the beautifully brutal 2013 season so far are the Tahs' resurgence, the British and Irish Lions' tour, the Chiefs v Crusaders' semi, Israel Folau, and George Smith.
And, of course, congrats to the Chiefs. It's always a pleasure when the best teams win their respective competitions, and this year the Chiefs have been the best, most exciting team.
So, rugby is sitting in a much improved and beautifully brutal place with the promise of more to come as we head into the Rugby Championship.
Hooroo, and go the Wallabies!
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