With the URC season coming close to the final stages, it is time to take a look back at the season and who has been the very best, with this article taking a look at the URC team of the season for 2021-22.
1: Thomas du Toit
One of the main reasons for the Sharks currently looking like the best South African team in the competition is because of just how dominant their scrum is. A big reason for this success is the power of Thomas du Toit.
The 27 year old is having a brilliant campaign for the Sharks, helping the Sharks to winning 29 scrum penalties on the season. His power has helped du Toit to three tries so far this season and his consistency for the Sharks is what has helped them on their recent fine run of form. A brilliant addition to the URC.
2: Bongi Mbonambi
Bongi Mbonambi coming back into the Sharks team after the winter is a massive reason for the Sharks winning eight of their last nine and looking very likely for a home semi-final as they push for the top two.
Mbonambi is one of the most accurate lineout throwers as well, winning 108 lineouts so far this season. His accuracy is one reason for the Sharks being so lethal from the driving maul, with Mbonambi benefiting from his accuracy.
With six tries on the season, Mbonambi has been dominant at the back of the lineout, the perfect finisher for the Sharks pack. In the scrum, he combines with du Toit to help form one of the best front rows in the URC, likely only behind a full strength Leinster front row. He will have some big tests ahead, but if the Sharks are to progress further into the tournament they will need Mbonambi at the helm.
3: Stephen Archer
In what could possibly be his last season with Munster, Stephen Archer has put in one of his best performances as the age of 34. Statistically, Munster have one of the strongest scrums in the URC, winning 96% of their scrums, joint first in the URC alongside Glasgow.
With injuries and availability forcing changes, Archer has been one of the few mainstays in the forward pack. He has started nine URC games as well as coming on in three more. Archer scored his first try of the competition a few weeks ago to help secure a win against Ulster.
With Munster’s scrum being a big reason for their success this season, Archers efforts need to be recognised.
4: Fineen Wycherley
In a good season for Munster, the emergence of some young talent has been a real bright spot of the season despite changes in the staff. Graham Rowntree will inherit a talented squad including young second row Fineen Wycherley.
With injuries to Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman opening opportunities, Wycherley has been outstanding for Munster throughout the season. In a talented Munster squad he has made the second row his home, starting in 18 games in all competitions this season.
He was particularly prevalent at the start of the season, crucial in wins against the Sharks and Stormers. Having not been part of the Ireland squad for the Six Nations, Wycherley became even more important to Munster in the early months of 2022. He is Munster’s leading tackler, a crucial part of their team.
5: Richie Gray
Particularly at the start of the year, both Scottish teams were the surprise package of the URC. While both teams have dropped off slightly in recent months, it is not without some great performances from Richie Gary.
The 32 year old Scottish international is in his second season back with Glasgow, performing excellently. Gray has started in thirteen URC games, as well as coming on as a substitute in one more. He has been a menace at lineout time, leading the URC in lineout steals with 12, three more than second best.
His form was recognised with a new contract in March, showing just how valuable he has been to the Warriors this season.
6: Jack O’Donoghue
If it wasn’t for Ireland’s incredible back row talent, we would have seen a lot more of Jack O’Donoghue on the international scene. The Munster flanker has once again put in a brilliant season, being very consistent as Munster aim for second.
The 28 year old continues to be a key carrier for Munster and has played all across the back line in his 14 starts in the URC this season. His pair of try’s in round two helped Munster to a big win over the Stormers.
Nominated for EPCR European Player of the Year, with the accomplishments continuing to come in, surely it cannot be long until he is back in the Ireland squad, particularly as he becomes a leader as Peter O’Mahony ages out of the team.
7: Nick Timoney
One Irish flanker who has gotten international recognition in the last year is Ulster’s Nick Timoney whose URC season has been brilliant.
With Ulster having a surprisingly good season that includes two wins against league leaders Leinster, Timoney has been crucial in the teams success. He has started 14 URC games for Ulster. One of the hardest workers in the league, Timoney leads the URC in tackles, more than 40 above second place Jac Morgan.
His great work in defence does not hurt his attack, still being Ulster’s most used ball carrier despite Duane Vermeulen signing last summer. With six tries on the season, Timoney’s ball carrying ability comes with a lot of yards, still being Ulster’s leading try scorer. Timoney has done it all for his side this season, a phenomenal player.
8: Vincent Tshituka
South African rugby has unearthed what looks like another superstar forward this season, with Vincent Tshituka playing brilliantly in all 13 of his URC starts so far this season.
The 23 year old is the staring light on a Lions squad who have missed out on the top eight and they are losing Tshituka in the summer as he heads to the Sharks. He is second in the Lions squad for tackles as well as being the teams leading carrier. Vincent and his brother Emmanuel have formed a brilliant partnership and he will be a big loss for the Lions.
One of the outstanding young stars of the URC, he will surely be getting a South African passport soon enough, particularly with the aging back row of the Boks.
9: Nathan Doak
While John Cooney may be the more accomplished Ulster number nine, Nathan Doak has been the outstanding scrum half in the URC this season.
Currently the third highest points scorer in the URC, Doak has been quietly instrumental in the teams success this season, orchestrating the Ulster team despite only being 20 years old. With Cooney out injured there was concern that Ulster’s backs may struggle, but Doak has been excellent.
Good with the boot, Doak is certainly the heir to Ulster’s scrum half position for a long time to come. If he continues to improve, Doak will surely also be the heir for the Ireland number nine jersey with Jamison Gibson-Park and Conor Murray both over the age of 30.
10: Curwin Bosch
The URC has some incredibly talented fly halves like Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbeary and Mannie Libbok. But it is Curwin Bosch who has been the best all season.
The URCs second leading point scorer is the perfect 10 for the Sharks. Considering all the talent that they have in the backs, Bosch is the perfect facilitator, with his passing and creativity opening up try scoring opportunities for internationals like Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am.
Only Libbok has more points this season, having played more games. But Bosch has been the better all round player and certainly the best 10 in the URC this season, with the Sharks only losing once since he became 10 in February.
11: Kurt-Lee Ardense
One of the few benefits of the pandemic is seeing Kurt-Lee Ardense in the URC, having left sevens rugby at the start of 2020. He has been phenomenal to watch this season with the stats backing that up.
The pacy winger leads the URC in metres gained and clean breaks. He can unlock a defence with easy, using the speed and agility built up from playing sevens. While the 25 has played at fullback more this season, I had to fit him into the team somehow.
Losing him to a broken finger two weeks ago is a huge loss for the Bulls, who will hope the injury will not prevent him playing in the quarter finals.
12: Mark Bennett
If you pay attention to URC fantasy, you will know that Mark Bennets round 10 performance is the best of any player this season if you look at fantasy points. But his performances all season have been excellent.
The Scottish centre made the switch to Edinburgh back in 2017 and is enjoying a brilliant season. With six tries on the season, he is Edinburgh’s joint top scorer alongside Emiliano Boffelli. His impact on the team this season is so much more than tries.
His nine turnovers this season are third most in Edinburgh’s squad, showing he doesn’t mind doing the hard yards in defence for his team. Without his impact, top eight would not have been so secure for Edinburgh.
13: Sione Tuipulotu
There was a lot of competition for the best centres, but Sione Tuipulotus season as a whole has been brilliant.
Signed by Glasgow in the summer, he has quickly become a mainstay in that backline, featuring in 12 URC games so far this season, despite becoming a starter in the national team this year.
In his time in the URC, Tuipulotu has four tries and has nine clean breaks on the season. One of the best tacklers in the Glasgow squad, Tuipulto stands out in a group of backs containing internationals like Sam Johnson, Kyle Steyn and Ali Price. Australia may regret letting him go, having represented Australia U20s seventeen times.
14: Mack Hansen
Speaking of former Australia U20 players, Mack Hansen has been one of the best players in the URC this season, a year on from playing with the Brumbies in Super Rugby.
Joining Connacht in the summer, Hansen has adapted to European rugby brilliantly, standing out in a backline that contains British and Irish Lion Bundee Aki. Hansen is absolutely sensational with ball in hand, scoring six tries this season, Connacht’s highest scorer. With 45 defenders beaten, only Evan Roos has gotten past more opponents this season.
It is hardly surprising that Hansen started four of Irelands five Six Nations games despite not making his debut for the country prior to the tournament. An outstanding player who Australia certainly regret letting leave. One of the most exciting players to watch in the URC.
15: Mike Lowry
However, if there was an award going out to the most exciting player to watch in the URC this season then it would have to go to Ulster’s diminutive fullback, Mike Lowry.
Having begun the season on the bench, Lowry quickly showed his incredible ability, securing the fullback role after impressing in the Champions cup in wins against Clermont and Northampton. When you watch him play, it is pretty obvious why there is so much hype around Lowry.
The 23 year old is a nightmare to play against, one of the most explosive players in the URC. He is fifth for defenders beaten despite not being involved much in ball carrying due to playing fullback. Lowry is third for metres gained in the URC as well as being good with the boot.
His explosiveness in attack is helped by bravery in defence. Despite being five foot seven, Lowry is a good tackler and not afraid to get into the breakdown if needed. His performances have been recognised by not only the Irish staff, with Lowry being nominated for European player of the season.
20: Evan Roos
21: Ross Byrne