Ulster captain Johann Muller was given the perfect momento to take back to South Africa on Sunday night when he was presented with the RaboDirect PRO12 ‘best of’ Team framed selection.
Muller, who will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season, was voted captain of the PRO12 team.
He has been a massive force for the Irish Province and was recently named as the Ulster Rugby Heineken ‘personality of the Year.’
The physically imposing second row had to contend with Welsh star and fellow lock, Ospreys’ Alun-Wynn Jones for the captain’s armband.
Muller described it as a huge honour to be named captain of the team and it added to the memories of his team playing in the competition.
The team was selected by a media panel of three Irish, three Welsh, two Scottish and one Italian journalist.
Another Ulster player who has enjoyed him time in the limelight recently, winger Irish Trimble, was among six Irish players named on the team.
The selections are based on PRO12 appearances during the season as well as taking into account other statistics - which reflects why several of the top international stars from the four Unions which make up the competition are not named in the panel.
Trimble was the only Irish back to be named on the side.
He has had a tremendous season across the board, and he picked up three ‘player of the year’ gongs at the Ulster Rugby awards as well as being named Ireland’s players’ ‘player of the year.’
Five Irish forwards were named, among them Munster-bound Robin Copeland
Copeland has enjoyed an outstanding season with Cardiff Blues and Munster supporters will be encouraged to see his form acknowledged by leading rugby journalists, who selected the ‘best of’ team.
Other Munster inclusions were prop Dave Kilcoyne and New Zealander Casey Laulala.
Leinster had three players included, back rows Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy, and hooker Sean Cronin.
The inclusion of six Irishmen and two Irish-based players is a big improvement on 2013 when only Ian Madigan (Leinster) and Luke Marshall (Ulster) featured, along with PRO12 player of the year Nick Williams (Ulster).
There was some healthy debate among the journalists for some of the positions, a reflection of how strong the league is.
PRO12 TEAM OF YEAR:
15. Liam Williams (Scarlets)
14. Jeff Hassler (Ospreys)
13. Casey Laulala (Munster)
12. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)
11. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
10. Dan Biggar (Ospreys)
9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets)
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
3. Samson Lee (Scarlets)
4. Johann Muller (Ulster) CAPTAIN
5. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
6. Rhys Ruddock (Leinster)
7. Jordi Murphy (Leinster)
8. Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues)