25 years of Super Rugby has produced some truly magnificent and memorable moments, match-ups and players. We undertook one of the more challenging tasks enjoyed amongst rugby fans and had a stab at selecting an all-time greatest Super Rugby XV. Testament to the quality of the tournament, it was not an easy exercise and guaranteed not to please everyone, but here it is:
- Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira
Greatly admired and respected around the world, “Beast” turned out 159 times for the Sharks over 12 years. A colossus in the scrum and quick and busy around the park, not many come close to matching this man’s capabilities and power.
- Bismarck du Plessis
Du Plessis was instrumental in breaking the mould of the hookers of old. Instead of just concentrating on set-piece, Bismarck expanded his roles to that of fetcher, ball-carrier and enforcer. Bismarck currently holds a lineout success rate of over 90% and his enormous physical strength allowed him to dominate his opponents at scrum and ruck time. Over his Super Rugby career, du Plessis bagged 131 caps for the Sharks.
- Owen Franks
A Crusaders legend, Franks is the complete package at tighhead prop, and then much more. Throughout his career he was exceptionally dedicated to his strength conditioning, rendering him immensely powerful. However, in addition to his physical strength, Franks was also one of the fittest, mobile props around. His set-piece technique was also flawless and the 120kg tighthead was never dominated in the scrums. He managed 150 caps for the Crusaders.
- Brad Thorn
An All Black legend in the second row. With his mobility, strength and aggressive temperament, Brad was forever a thorn in the sides of opposition. His dedication to the sport saw him playing top level rugby at the age of 40 before he switched to coaching. Rugby league’s loss was union’s gain when he made the switch and joined up with the Crusaders in 2001. All in all, he racked up 108 Super Rugby appearances and will be forever remembered as one of the game’s hardest men.
- Victor Matfield
Arguably the best lineout forward ever, Matfield offered a massive advantage in the set-piece. With 148 Super Rugby caps under the belt, the 2.01m second-row became a legend of Loftus Versveld and Springbok rugby as well.
- George Smith
Smith was an ever-present threat to opposition continuity and cohesion. Courageous and intelligent, he became a master at stealing ball, routinely putting his body on the line while employing a near perfect technique. With 164 Super Rugby caps, Smith is an iconic figure in Australian rugby and one of the best, consistent and most menacing flankers in the game’s history.
- Richie McCaw
No surprises here. Former All Black coach Steve Hansen recently referred to McCaw as “the best rugby player the world has ever seen” and the openside flanker has certainly made a strong case for such a notion. Often doing the work of at least two players, McCaw ran out for the Crusaders 145 times in a career spanning 17 years.
- Zinzan Brooke
Zinzan Brooke was a mercurial talent who was ahead of his time. Rugby-obsessed, when he wasn’t on the field he would routinely spend hours with a pen in hand, drawing up plans for new moves. A strong, courageous man and a natural leader who welcomed innovation, his players thrived under his guidance and were always inspired by his tough but cerebral style of play. Brooke was at the helm of the legendary Blues team of the 90s – still regarded as one of the best teams the competition has ever produced.
- George Gregan
Gregan’s contribution to Australian rugby is unparalleled. With 139 international caps, he is remembered as one of the greatest scrumhalves to have passed the rugby ball. In Super Rugby, Gregan won 136 caps for the Brumbies and excelled in all facets of the game.
- Dan Carter
Regarded by many as the best fly-half to have played the game, not many pose opposition to Carter’s selection here. Creative, dynamic and consistent, no defence was too much for Dan Carter to handle. 141 caps for the most successful franchise in Super Rugby history goes some way to showing the brilliance of this man.
- Bryan Habana
During his Super Rugby career of 118 caps, Habana delighted audiences with his lightning pace and perpetual hunger for the try-line. Once the flyer had kicked into top gear, he was nigh on impossible to stop.
- Tim Horan
A superb player who produced innumerable moments of attacking genius, Horan is arguably the greatest centre Australia has ever produced. With him in the backline, the Queensland Reds were a formidable force to be reckoned with as he made a habit of tearing defensive systems to pieces with great pace, hard running lines and fine handling skills.
- Conrad Smith
Smith made what is a complex and responsibility-filled position on the rugby field look easy. Strong, fast, brainy and skilful, the Hurricanes (for whom he won 126 caps) could always rest easy in the knowledge that Conrad Smith was covering the outside centre position with his solid defence and creative attack.
- Joe Roff
A truly sublime finisher, when Roff was given the ball, he knew exactly what to do. Great pace and footwork skill saw him cross the try-line many times, often creating tries out of nothing, all with a characteristic air of nonchalance.
- Christian Cullen
It is doubtful whether a better attacking fullback has played the game. Rugby came naturally to Cullen who was a danger every time he touched the ball. With his long stride he carved defences up on his way to the try-line and, with his fantastic support play, was always on hand to advance attack.