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How South Africa's Super Rugby teams performed

Kwagga Smith of the Lions goes on the run against the Reds. Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Following the completion of the 2017 Super Rugby tournament, KweséESPN takes a look at how the South African teams performed in the Southern Hemisphere's showpiece tournament.

Lions (beaten finalists)

The Lions had an easy draw, and would only face New Zealand opposition for the first time in the semifinals. But you can only play what's in front of you, and the Joburg side lost only one match when coach Johan Ackermann sent a second-string outfit to Argentina to play the Jaguares.

The Lions again played a great brand of rugby, pulling teams apart with their power upfront and pace out wide. But they did wobble a bit in the playoffs before reaching the final, where the Crusaders outplayed them in the opening stanza.

Standout player: Kwagga Smith

His red card in the final probably cost the Lions the Super Rugby final, but the Sevens star showed his qualities throughout the season. Smith was wonderful as a fetcher and a linkman, while his support play helped him to many tries.

Stormers (quarterfinalists)

The Stormers' season started with so much promise. People were suddenly looking at the Cape side as potential darkhorses, especially after they produced one of their best performances in recent years to beat the Chiefs at Newlands.

However, a week after that victory against the Chiefs, they were smashed by the Lions at home, and then conceded more than 150 points on their three-match tour of New Zealand. The Stormers have improved, but not sufficiently enough for this season to be considered a good one.

Standout player: Dillyn Leyds

Leyds featured in one of the plays of the competition when he produced a magical offload to put SP Marais away for a try against the Chiefs. Leyds was full of running, making 24 clean breaks and scoring nine tries this year. No wonder Allister Coetzee and the Springboks came calling.

Sharks (quarterfinalists)

The Sharks were a bit of a mixed bag throughout the season, mixing the sublime with the awful on weekly basis. They would convincingly beat the Jaguares one week, before losing to the Kings in their next match. But they were the only South African team to really challenge the Lions in their encounters, even coming close to beating them in the quarterfinal.

The Sharks also built a great platform for next year's competition after blooding plenty of youngsters, such as SA Under-20 flyhalf Curwin Bosch and the exciting winger Sibusiso Nkosi. If they can keep this team together and strengthen in key areas, they could be darkhorses next season.

Standout player: Jean-Luc du Preez

The hard-tackling flanker was one of the best South African loose forwards in the competition. His physicality brought a hard edge to the Sharks' forward effort, and he was a destructive force in the collisions. If he can sort out his lineout jumping, he could be a force.

Kings (fifth in South African group)

Nobody gave the Kings a chance to shine, while the axe also hovered above their necks for most of the season when Sanzaar announced that they would be cutting two South African teams from next year's competition.

But that doubt surrounding their future seemed to galvanise the team, as the Kings started to fire. They won three matches in a row for the first time in their history, and managed to record a win against the Sharks. They also played an entertaining brand of rugby to go along with their spirited defence.

Standout player: Chris Cloete

The Kings loose forward showed the value of having a top scavenger in your team, after he finished Super Rugby with 19 turnovers, with 10 of those coming after he made a tackle. Cloete's has a big engine and was everywhere on the field for the Kings.

Cheetahs (sixth in South African group)

The Cheetahs started brightly, but were unlucky not to get more wins in the first half of their Super Rugby campaign. However, their wheels began to fall off after rumours of that they may be cut from the competition in 2018.

The Cheetahs' defence was diabolical at the best of times, while they their ball-in-hand approach became rather predictable, because they rarely kicked the ball. They were entertaining though, with their forwards and backs loving keen to have a go at every opportunity. They just needed to show some backbone and make a few tackles.

Standout player: Raymond Rhule

The Ghanaian-born winger can't tackle to save his life. But what he does bring to the party in speed, skill and rugby intelligence make up for shortcomings on defence.

Bulls (Seventh in South African group)

For most part the Bulls were absolutely terrible, and looked a shadow of those famous light blue championship teams of the past. The Pretoria side have a lot of talent in their line-up, but they just didn't look up for the fight under coach Nollis Marais.

In fact, the Bulls' main players such as Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant only started to perform when they joined up with the Springboks and South African 'A' team respectively in June. They will be hoping for a massive improvement in 2018 under new director or rugby John Mitchell.

Standout player: Jesse Kriel

This was a very difficult choice, because nobody at the Bulls was really worth mentioning. Kriel, though, was the best of the worst.