NZ Rugby World
10 BEST PLAYERS IN SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA
SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA WAS BRILLIANT AND WE LOOK AT 10 PLAYERS WHO HELPED MAKE IT THAT WAY.
10: Codie Taylor [Crusaders]
Codie Taylor is almost certainly the country's best hooker now. Being captain of the Crusaders brought the best out of him.
His throwing wasn't perfect, but it was mostly good. His scrummaging was strong, his cleanout work excellent and he picked off a few turnovers.
But always with Taylor, it was his work around the field that mattered most. He was again a dynamic ball carrier and punoshing tackler.
9: Will Jordan [Crusaders]
Everyone that had followed Will Jordan emerge through schoolboy and provincial rugby knew he was a special talent.
They had seen him shred defences all the way through is career and finally we saw what he could do at the highest level when he was free of injury and able to enjoy a consistent run of games.
His pace enabled him to get outside defenders, to break weak tackles and to stress defences. His timing was excellent, too and his awareness if where to be and when was stunning.
But what marked him out for higher honours was his bravery jumping for high balls and solidity on defence.
There's not much too him but he made his presence felt.
8: Ngani Laumape [Hurricanes]
We all knew Ngani Laumape had deadly power as a strike runner. We saw that again in 2020 which was welcome, but not revleationary.
The bit that surprised everyone, was that he has good pace and swerve as well, as demonstrated when he so famously stepped Beauden Barrett and then had the pace to out run him to the try-line.
There were also a few neat touches from Laumape which showed he's worked hard to improve his distribution and ability to play others into space.
7: Rieko Ioane [Blues]
Rieko Ioane didn't have such a great year in 2019 by his own high standards so he came into 2020 determined to get things back on track. And he did just that.
He asked the Blues if he could play in his preferred position of centre – rather than wing – and they agreed. He found his confidence again and started to beat defenders and show that lightning speed of his.
Not only that, though, he developed his all-round game and became a better passer and tackler and gave the All Blacks a real headache about whether they should pick him at centre or wing because he's kind of really good at both.
6: Shannon Frizell [Highlanders]
In 2018 the All Blacks surprised everyone when they picked Shannon Frizell at a time when not many had noticed him playing for the Highlanders.
They said they liked his big tackling and powerful ball carrying. And once we all suddenly noticed him and paid attention, we could see the All Blacks were right.
And that was especially true this year as Frizell took his game to a new level. He was immense every time he played. Solid. Rock solid and really powerful every time he had the ball and more powerful when he didn't.
He did his job at No 6 perfectly and looked every inch the bruising, athletic blindside the All Blacks have been searching for.
5: Lachlan Boshier [Chiefs]
There were a lot of teams that ended up really quite annoyed by Lachlan Boshier in Super Rugby this year. Which was a sign he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
His work at the tackled ball was the best in the country. No one picked off more turnovers and he was brave, strong and technically perfect.
There were times when he seemed to be keeping the Chiefs in games all on his own and the All Blacks will have wondered whether they would be able to make use of his skill-set if he came off the bench in tests.
4: Patrick Tuipulotu [Blues]
Patrick Tuipulotu seemed to turn a career corner in August last year. We all hoped it was permanent – which turned out to be very much the case.
He was the form lock in Super Rugby, easily the best in the country and he was an absolute tank.
He was just about unstoppable when he carried, blasting hard yards with his leg drive. His work rate was through the roof, his lineout jumping better than it had ever been and his tackling a thing of quit magnificent beauty.
No one enjoyed playing against him and no one got the better of him. He was the perfect captain for a much-improved
3: Jordie Barrett [Hurricanes]
When it comes to the Barrett family we are all used to hearing about Beauden being brilliant and quite often Scott is not so far behind.
But this year the star of the Barrett family was Jordie who had a sensational campaign with the Hurricanes.
He was the star of the show every time he played. He barely did anything wrong, running well, kicking well and tackling well.
He made great decisions, had a big work rate and seemed to inspire everyone around him.
There were a couple of games too that he won because of his ability to goal-kick from long range and he has maturd into a seriously intriguing test prospect.
2: Richie Mo'unga [Crusaders]
Richie Mo'unga was Mr Cool for the Crusaders. He was never spooked by anything and his calm head, incredible range of skills and burning desire to win were all key factors in the Crusaders being crowned champions again.
He did everything. He came up with killer plays when the Crusaders needed them. He kicked them out of trouble. He found holes in defences to create tries and he probed and poked every time he had the ball to keep opponents guessing about where the next threat lay.
It's a tough business splaying No 10 where so many decisions have to be made and so many things are happening. But Mr Cool made it look easy.
1: Aaron Smith [Highlanders]
It was tiring just watching Aaron Smith this year. He buzzed about as if he had cloned himself, appearing all over the park.
He just seemed to love playing and being co-captain. He ran and he ran and he passed and he passed.
And it was incredible watching him be so accurate, so decisive and so clever. Everything the Highlanders did came through him and he tormented defences, found holes and organised everything the Highlanders did.
He also mixed things up this year, more regularly shifting sideways with the ball to pull defenders to him and create holes around the fringes.