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
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