Last week it was the voories, this week it is the show-ponies. With just the playoffs to come, TANK and ZELIM debate which backs were the greatest in Vodacom Super Rugby history!
Cutting this list from 100s to 10s, and then to seven required half a bottle of Panado – some incredible talents didn’t make my final cut…
Halfbacks: Fourie du Preez, Dan Carter
Centres: Tana Umaga, Stirling Mortlock
Outside backs: Bryan Habana, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Joe Roff
Where George Gregan won titles with an all-star cast outside him, Fourie du Preez turned lesser talents into three-time champions.
Andrew Mehrtens and Morne Steyn were points-machines; Stephen Larkham was a genius tactician. Dan Carter was the perfect balance.
For my money, Umaga is as close as you can get to the ultimate back. He was big, quick, agile and skillful, tactically aware and bold without being reckless.
I wouldn’t dig in my pockets if Mortlock was 5c short for a packet of smokes, but there’s no denying his qualities on the pitch. Stirlo played a direct game complemented by some sweet goal-kicking – only three players have scored more points in Super Rugby history.
SA’s greatest finisher, Bryan Habana owns the left-wing position without needing an explanation. The same can’t be said of the bloke on the other end of the line…
Caucau only made 13 appearances in Super Rugby. He scored 15 tries.
Yes, Doug Howlett and Caleb Ralph own the career try-scoring records, but if there was only time for one more play to score the game-winning try, I’d want the ball to go to Rupeni in his prime.
That leaves the fullback position which reads like a Who’s Who of the comp’s most famous names – Israel Folau, Chris Latham, Christian Cullen, Ben Smith, Percy Montgomery, Andrew Walker, Andre Joubert, Matt Burke and Mils Muliaina.
I’ve handed the No 15 jersey to Super Rugby’s best all-rounder, Joe Roff. The thinking man’s fullback, Roff was just as comfortable clicking on his seatbelt for high-speed collisions when the situation called for it.
Ahhh, the peacock showponies get their chance to shine. Just remember that while the backs get to decide the margin, it’s the forwards who decide the result!
A real world, play on a Saturday, team is about making the whole greater than the sum of the parts, hence the need to look at combinations. But today we have the opportunity to just look at the parts, and NOT make it work as a whole!
As such, in essence, I have picked players who could be used in a rugby dictionary to define the number on their back. And players who have had the biggest impact on the tournament.
Half backs: Fourie du Preez, Dan Carter
Centres: Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu
Outside backs: Bryan Habana, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen
The half backs pick themselves, an amazing feat in itself. Both players would be in contention for the “Greatest players to walk the earth” award.
Smith and Nonu are the reason I got into Super Rugby, and became an avid Canes fan. So yes, perhaps I am biased. But Smith was the ultimate in making players outside him shine, and Nonu the ultimate in saying thank you. Magic in motion.
Out wide, Habana defined finishing, Lomu redefined the game of rugby (having moved from flank, something that will have my colleague in raptures), and the Paekakariki Express is the most potent running fullback the game has ever seen.
Close but no cigar: George Gregan, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Andrew Mehrtens, Tana Umaga, Robbie Fruean, Sonny Bill Williams, Malakai Fekitoa, JP Pietersen, Joe Roff, Nemani Nadolo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Andre Joubert
CLICK HERE to see the ultimate pack debate.
Are we missing players? Jot down your Super Backs in the comments below …