It's that time again - who makes the Super 14 First XV after the round robin? The Herald on Sunday sports team have selected their side, based mostly on consistency so some big names who suffered injuries may be surprise omissions.

15 Mils Muliaina (Chiefs)

The semifinal confirmed it - a world-class fullback with little or no flaws; safe on defence, a piercing returner of the ball and a strong counter-attacker. Heads off a bravura season from Leon MacDonald.

14 Lelia Masaga (Chiefs)


He's a little lucky to keep his place. If selection was on form in the first nine weeks, Masaga would be the automatic choice - no debate. He turned nothing into something every time he had the ball. The first tackler didn't stand a chance and his defensive positioning was bang on. He tackled well, was safe under the high ball and finished neatly. Then he picked up an injury and didn't look the same player. But did enough to head off Rene Ranger of the Blues.

13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)

Richard Kahui has been higher impact in terms of linebreaks and big hits. But Smith has been his usual tidy and clever self. He brings out the best in Ma'a Nonu, distributes magnificently and bosses those around him into the right places. He has also retained that ability to make a surprise break.

12 Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes)

Consistency has become Nonu's key quality. Not only has his running been strong this season, his passing and decision-making have stayed accurate. He was the leading try-scorer in the round-robin and there is no more potent force than Nonu in the No 12 shirt.

11 Sitiveni Sivivatu (Chiefs)

There was a hat-trick against the Blues and much improved defensive work throughout the campaign. Seven years since making his Super 14 debut and still no one can get a defensive handle on him - it's that meandering style of his that lulls then stuns when he explodes into action.

10 Matt Giteau (Force)

The dearth of quality at No 10 has been apparent every week. Matt Giteau has stood out in an ordinary year. His ability to change gear and direction is Christian Cullen-like and his finest moment came in Christchurch when he led a second-half comeback to earn his side a draw. He's got fast hands, neat hands and a good brain.

9 Fourie du Preez (Bulls)

After a slow start, du Preez got back to where he was in 2007. He's a snarling, electric force when he's on song. He runs and runs and never lets defences settle. He's quick to see the opportunity and he gets the Bulls moving forward.

8 Pierre Spies (Bulls)

Like there could be any other. Spies is the future. He's an athletic beast. He will tear the Lions apart like he's torn almost everyone in the Super 14 apart.

7 George Smith (Brumbies)

Many would have forgotten how good Smith is. He reminded everyone as his work on the ground was better than ever it was. He was superb at stealing ball. He tackled well, supported well and led his forwards well.

6 Adam Thomson (Highlanders)

How come it took until now to realise how good Thomson is? Or has he suddenly become a different player? This season he's risen to new heights. He's become almost as good as Richie McCaw at the so-called Jackal tackle where he tackles a man and gets to his feet without ever letting go of the ball. His speed in open play is impressive and his energy relentless.

5 Bakkies Botha (Bulls)

He's in because he's big and and bad and he's Bakkies. He did what he always does which is thunder around and bash into things. His lineout work, clean-out and his ball carries effective - and he even came up with a try-scoring tackle. Top all-round performer even if he's a nasty brute.

4 Isaac Ross (Crusaders)

Ross is athletic and was a good player waiting to happen. That happened this year. His mobility and ball carrying were a real feature, so too his aerial work. He's not a tight lock, he prefers to roam which is fine when he's partnered with Brad Thorn. More than fine, actually, it's a dangerous combination.

3 John Smit (Sharks)

Yes, he's a hooker, but he was a consistently strong tighthead prop for the Sharks in a competition which does not boast many impressive tightheads. His mobility, work at the breakdown and tackling are all well known. Heads off young Werner Kruger of the Bulls and Neemia Tialata.

2 Keven Mealamu (Blues)

Consistently impressive in an ordinary Blues team, never failed to go forward with the ball and a fine focal point for his team, in spite of some rather apologetic post-match interviews. Heads off Bismarck du Plessis as the latter's form fell away towards the end of the round robin.

1 Benn Robinson (Waratahs)

The cornerstone of a surprisingly good Waratahs pack this year and a scrum which gave everyone problems. Mobile as well and should be a key performer in the Wallabies for the Tri Nations. Preferred to Tony Woodcock because of the latter's injury which removed him for a time.