The French have a say­ing ‘no scrum, no win’. In Su­per Rugby it should be ‘No 10, no win’ So we look at the best first-fives in the com­pe­ti­tion and an­a­lyse what they bring.

THE FRENCH HAVE AN EX­PRES­SION ‘NO SCRUM, NO WIN’. IN SU­PER RUGBY THEY SAY, ‘NO 10, NO WIN’. WELL, THEY DON’T RE­ALLY SAY THAT BUT IT WOULD BE COOL IF THEY DID SO IN AN AT­TEMPT TO ES­TAB­LISH THIS PRO­FOUND MANTRA, WE RATE THE EIGHT BEST FIRST-FIVES IN THE COM

NZ Rugby World - - Contents -

1 BEAU­DEN BAR­RETT [Hur­ri­canes] HEIGHT: 1.88m WEIGHT: 95kg AGE: 26 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: Hur­ri­canes 2011 – TI­TLES: One – 2016

Beau­den Bar­rett is push­ing to­wards be­ing an all-time great, hav­ing won the World Rugby Player of the Year ti­tle in con­sec­u­tive years. His game has de­vel­oped dra­mat­i­cally in the last few years and he has jumped from be­ing a good rugby player to a world class No 10. Ev­ery­one can see that Bar­rett has in­cred­i­ble pace and the vi­sion to use it. He has all the com­po­nent parts, too. What makes him spe­cial, though, is that he has learned how to use all his skills ef­fec­tively and he has ma­tured into a strong game man­ager. These days his tac­ti­cal con­trol is su­perb and he dam­ages teams as much with his de­ci­sion-mak­ing as he does his sear­ing speed. He’s a much bet­ter kicker than he’s given credit for as well. He’s the best No 10 in the com­pe­ti­tion by some dis­tance.

2 LIMA SOPOAGA [High­landers] HEIGHT: 1.82m WEIGHT: 95kg AGE: 26 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: High­landers 2011 TI­TLES: One – 2015

The big skill that Lima Sopoaga brings is his game man­age­ment. And most im­por­tantly, he’s able to think on his feet, ad­just and adapt to what he is see­ing and make good calls un­der pres­sure.

That’s worth a premium in Su­per Rugby and while there are No 10s who pose more of a di­rect threat than him, few, if any, can di­rect as well as he can. He’ll put the High­landers in the right places at the right times and he’ll use his boot plenty to do it.

He’s also a solid bet to land dif­fi­cult goal­kicks just when his side re­ally needs the points.

3 EL­TON JANTJIES [Lions] HEIGHT: 1.76m WEIGHT: 88kg AGE: 27 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2011 – TI­TLES: None – but has played in two fi­nals

El­ton Jantjies has come of age in the last two years. When he first ap­peared on the scene with the Lions he was a promis­ing teenager with a great skill-set but a flaky tem­per­a­ment.

The lat­ter proved to be a big­ger ob­sta­cle than any­one pre­dicted and when he was trans­ferred to the Storm­ers – when the Lions were rel­e­gated – he re­ally lost his way.

It took a re­turn to his home prom­ise for him to de­velop con­fi­dence in him­self and use all of his weaponry. He’s quick, ag­ile and aware of where op­por­tu­nity lies. Is a good goal­kicker and has been re­ally com­fort­able manag­ing the fast, wide game the Lions have em­ployed in re­cent sea­sons.

4 BERNARD FO­LEY [Waratahs] HEIGHT: 1.82m WEIGHT: 89kg AGE: 28 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2011 – TI­TLES: One – 2014

It’s easy to un­der­es­ti­mate Bernard Fo­ley and a mis­take to do so. He brings an all­round set of skills to the game and with Kurt­ley Beale likely to be be­side him in the No 12 shirt this year, watch for both his con­fi­dence and ef­fec­tive­ness to grow.

He’s a tidy op­er­a­tor, does all his core jobs pretty well and can be a di­rect threat him­self if the de­fence backs off and lets him run.

The Waratahs will want to see him be more force­ful and con­trol­ling this year and take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for lead­ing the team’s at­tack.

5 RICHIE MO’UNGA [Cru­saders] HEIGHT: 1.78m WEIGHT: 90kg AGE: 23 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2016 – TI­TLES: One – 2017

Richie Mo’unga has been a box of sur­prises since he took pos­ses­sion of the Cru­saders No 10 jer­sey in 2016.

He came into the squad as a tal­ented 20-year-old and was told to scrap it out for the right to be the team’s play-maker. By March he had proven be­yond doubt and against ex­pec­ta­tion that he was the right and in­deed only choice for the Cru­saders.

He’s calm, com­posed and re­source­ful, passes well and runs sharp an­gles that trou­ble de­fences. He can kick and he doesn’t dwell on mis­takes and he has the knowl­edge that he has won a ti­tle al­ready.

Was called up by the All Blacks at the end of last year which will have done won­ders for his con­fi­dence.

6 DAMIAN McKEN­ZIE [Chiefs] HEIGHT: 1.71m WEIGHT: 80kg AGE: 22 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2015 – TI­TLES: None

All eyes are go­ing to be on Damian McKen­zie be­cause this young man has lit up Su­per Rugby since he first played in 2015.

But he has been used mostly at full­back by the Chiefs which makes it hard to ac­cu­rately as­sess what he may bring in 2018.

What we know is that he’s got light­ning speed and the abil­ity to beat any de­fender. He can kick out of hand, he is a fear­less de­fender and he loves at­tack­ing.

The ques­tion will be whether he can find the right bal­ance to his game and not over­play his hand. He takes risks but will he be able to take enough to keep de­fences on edge but not so many that he puts his team un­der pres­sure?

7 NI­CO­LAS SANCHEZ [Jaguares] HEIGHT: 1.77m WEIGHT: 83kg AGE: 29 EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2016 – TI­TLES: None

Ni­co­las Sanchez has strug­gled to find his best form in Su­per Rugby but he re­mains a qual­ity op­er­a­tor nonethe­less.

He’s a com­pact player, fru­gal in his move­ments but canny. He is a good dis­trib­u­tor and clever de­ci­sion-maker, par­tic­u­larly around the fringes of the ruck.

As to be ex­pected of a Pu­mas first-five, his kick­ing game is good and he makes a huge num­ber of tack­les per sea­son.

8 HANDRÉ POL­LARD [Bulls] HEIGHT: 1.87m WEIGHT: 97kg AGE: 23 SU­PER RUGBY EX­PE­RI­ENCE: 2014 – TI­TLES: None

We might be one of the last re­main­ing mem­bers of the Handré Pol­lard fan club. But we can’t help it. We like the guy, and think he has the skills and men­tal­ity to be a dom­i­nant force in the world game.

He’s a thump­ing big unit and he can kick the ball a coun­try mile. He can run, too, but he’s more di­rect and pow­er­ful than ag­ile and de­cep­tive.

Who knows, it might be that he just needs a few good games for his con­fi­dence to soar and for the prom­ise he showed as a 21-year-old to be ful­filled.

Run­ning: 9/10 De­fence: 9/10 Kick­ing: 8.5/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 8.5/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 43

Run­ning: 7/10 De­fence: 7.5/10 Kick­ing: 8.5/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 9/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 40

Run­ning: 6/10 De­fence: 6.5/10 Kick­ing: 8/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 7/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 35.5

Run­ning: 8/10 De­fence: 7/10 Kick­ing: 8.5/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 8/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 39.5

Run­ning: 6.5/10 De­fence: 7/10 Kick­ing: 8/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 7/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 36.5

Run­ning: 9/10 De­fence: 8/10 Kick­ing: 7/10 Goal­kick­ing: 7/10 Man­age­ment: 6/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 37

Run­ning: 7/10 De­fence: 7/10 Kick­ing: 8/10 Goal­kick­ing: 8/10 Man­age­ment: 7.5/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 37.5

Run­ning: 8/10 De­fence: 7/10 Kick­ing: 7.5/10 Goal­kick­ing: 7.5/10 Man­age­ment: 8/10 OVER­ALL RAT­ING: 38

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