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The 2016 Mitre 10 Cup XV

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Monday, October 31, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

We take a look at the form of all the players across the season to choose our 2016 Mitre 10 Cup XV.

15: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury)
It has been a breakout debut season for 19-year-old fullback Jordie Barrett. After impressing at second five-eighth for the New Zealand Under 20s earlier in the year, Barrett showed his versatility by slotting seamlessly into the number fifteen jersey for Canterbury. While tactically sound and strong in the air, Barrett’s running game and accurate goal kicking were most impressive. Barrett ended the season with 123 points – including five tries.

14: Ngani Laumape (Manawatu)

Although Manawatu missed out on the Championship semifinals, they had some great moments throughout their season and Ngani Laumape was one of their best. Used to great effect on both the wing and in the midfield, Laumape scored seven tries throughout the campaign and proved to be one of the most difficult men in the competition to put down.

13: Rieko Ioane (Auckland)

There was no surprise when Rieko Ioane was selected in the All Blacks Northern Tour squad given the barnstorming season he had for Auckland. The 19-year-old centre was a constant threat every time he touched the ball and ended up topping the Mitre 10 Cup statistics in tries (10), defenders beaten (62) and metres made (812).

12: Michael Little (North Harbour)
Although he has been on the domestic scene for a couple of seasons now, Michael Little announced himself as a player of immense quality during North Harbour’s triumphant 2016 season. Little is a deceptive runner and strong defender who has the ability to create something out of nothing. A tireless worker, Little made more tackles than any other back in the competition with 106 tackles.

11: Tevita Li (North Harbour)
With pace, power and fine finishing ability, Tevita Li was the perfect man to have on the end of the North Harbour line this season. With seven tries, 17 clean breaks and 49 defenders beaten, Li was an attacking dynamo. Li’s decision-making and calmness under pressure were also impressive aspects of his game.

10: Bryn Gatland (North Harbour)
In one the hardest positions to select, Bryn Gatland gets the nod for steering North Harbour into the Premiership. Starting the season as North Harbour’s number two ranked first five-eighth, Gatland quickly made the number 10 jersey his own with his deft tactical play, swift distribution, accurate goal kicking and incisive running. Gatland also proved himself to be a big match player with a last-gasp drop goal to clinch the Championship final for North Harbour.
9: Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau)
Augustine Pulu’s influence was so great on Counties Manukau during the Mitre 10 Cup season that he was called up as cover to the All Blacks squad. With a power running game, strong defence and playmaking ability, Pulu is the definition of a live wire halfback. Now that he is fully focussed on fifteens after a stint in the All Blacks Sevens environment, expect Pulu to get even better.

8: Luke Whitelock (Canterbury)

Canterbury skipper Luke Whitelock is a lead from the front captain and proved that by topping the competition statistics in carries with an incredible 169 runs. While strong with ball in hand, Whitelock was just as busy on defence with 113 tackles placing him sixth on the ladder. As a leader, Whitelock was an inspirational figure as Canterbury notched their eighth provincial title since 2008.

7: James Lentjes (Otago)
James Lentjes quickly established himself as a key figure in an Otago side that set the early pace in the Championship. A traditional number seven, Lentjes was busy around the park and tireless on defence. Lentjes made 148 tackles across the season, equal first with North Harbour’s Connor Collett. But it wasn’t just the number of tackles that was impressive. A number of bone-jarring hits forced turnovers or swung the balance of games as Lentjes gained a reputation as a fearsome tackler.

6: Jordan Taufua (Counties Manukau)
Jordan Taufua could never be accused of giving less than 100 percent. The dynamic loose forward was one of the keys to the Steelers success this year and was particularly potent with ball in hand. With 29 defenders beaten, Taufua left more defenders in has wake than any other member of the Steelers. His high tempo style of play was infectious as Counties Manukau marched into the Premiership semifinals.

5: Scott Barrett (Canterbury)
Powerful in the set piece, strong with ball in hand and industrious around the park, Scott Barrett was the rock in Canterbury’s pack throughout the 2016 campaign. Together with Dominic Bird, the pair formed a formidable partnership in the second row with Barrett’s work around the park complementing Bird’s lineout expertise. Barrett’s fine season was capped by inclusion in the All Blacks Northern Tour squad as an injury replacement for Brodie Retallick.

4: Tom Franklin (Otago)
Franklin is a set piece specialist and proved this by securing 52 lineout takes in 2016 – the most of any player in the competition. A strong ball carrier, Franklin also proved tough to stop close to the line and was a genuine leader in the Otago forward pack. The towering lock brought up 50 caps for Otago during the season and was selected in the Maori All Blacks squad to tour USA and Europe in November.

3: Kalolo Tuiloma (Counties Manukau)
After a wretched run of injuries to the Counties Manukau propping stocks, 140kg powerhouse Kalolo Tuiloma quickly alleviated any concerns about the Steelers front row. While immovable in the scrum, Tuiloma was a genuine game changer with ball in hand. Against Waikato, Tuiloma crossed for a remarkable hat trick of tries after just 17 minutes of play to showcase his game changing ability.

2: Andrew Makalio (Tasman)
It was never going to be easy to replace Makos stalwart Quentin MacDonald in the number two jersey, but Auckland product Andrew Makalio has quickly become a cult hero in his debut year at Tasman. The 24-year-old hooker built a fan following with his dynamic running and big tackling while his proficiency at the set piece was vital as Tasman made it through to the Premiership final.

1: Mitchell Graham (Taranaki)

Taranaki ended the regular season in second place on the Premiership ladder and a big part of their success was the foundation set up front. Loosehead prop Mitchell Graham was a top performer week after week for the Bulls with his solid scrumming complemented by a high work rate around the park. Graham also has the added bonus of being equally adept at playing on the tighthead of the scrum also.

Let us know who you would pick in your 2016 Mitre 10 Cup XV by using the hashtag #Mitre10Cup across social media.