The past 25 years of Super Rugby have yielded New Zealand dominance in the competition. We attempted the unenviable task of putting together an all-star XV picked from the two-and-a-half decades of the competition.
1. Tony Woodcock
Super Rugby caps: 149
A long-standing pillar of strength in the front-row, Woodcock made an enormous contribution to the reputation of the mighty All Blacks pack. Over his sixteen-year career he turned out for both the Blues and Highlanders and remains one of the most memorable players in Super Rugby.
2. Sean Fitzpatrick
Super Rugby caps: 25
One of the wiliest, toughest hookers the Blues and All Blacks have produced. Fitzpatrick, through his stout-hearted efforts on the field and brilliant leadership, became one of New Zealand’s favourite sons.
3. Owen Franks
Super Rugby caps: 150
Franks’ astonishing work ethic off the field propelled him right to the top, becoming one of the most feared front-rankers in the game. Although there is no shortage of quality tightheads produced in New Zealand, few could match this man for overall quality on the field.
4. Brad Thorn
Super Rugby caps: 108
The legendary Crusaders and All Black hard man cultivated a wonderful skill set within the realm of rugby league which he brought over to and made good use of in union in 2001. Standing back for no one on the pitch and a constant, significant threat on both attack and defence, he earns his spot in the second row with aplomb.
5. Brodie Retallick
Super Rugby caps: 107
Nicknamed “the Guzzler” from – most likely in reference to one of Roald Dahl’s giant characters in ‘The BFG’ – Retallick has been nothing short of immense since he burst onto the Super Rugby scene in 2012. He somehow manages to move his massive 2.04m, 124kg frame around the paddock with the pace of a loose-forward, contributing amply wherever he is involved.
6. Jerry Collins
Super Rugby caps: 85
Sorely missed, Collins established himself as one of the most feared back-rowers in the world. When in top form, the 112kg bruiser was a sight to behold, his brutal physicality so often leaving opponents writhing on the ground. A magnificent asset to any team.
7. Richie McCaw
Super Rugby caps: 145
Touted by many as the greatest to have played the game, McCaw would earn a spot in any team. Courageous, tough and a born leader, his legend will live strongly far into the future.
8. Zinzan Brooke
A wonderful example of the spirit of rugby, Zinzan played the game as it should be played. Tough, adventurous (no stranger, even, to the odd drop-goal) and superbly skilful, he holds a special place in the hearts of rugby fans the world over.
9. Aaron Smith
Super Rugby caps: 137
A livelier presence was seldom seen on a rugby field. Consistent, fantastic service from the ground and a great rugby brain, the diminutive general has rallied his troops to victory countless times.
10. Dan Carter
Super Rugby caps: 141
A sublime fly-half through and through. Carter was the heart and soul of the Crusaders and All Blacks’ attacking play for many years. His creativity and deadly boot made him one of the most valuable players of all time.
11. Jonah Lomu
Super Rugby caps: 59
The closest thing rugby has seen to a freight train on the field. Lomu had the strength of two players and his added pace made him a near-unstoppable force. The amazing sight of the man in motion took the world by storm and put rugby in the minds of many to whom the game was foreign.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
Super Rugby caps: 61
An enigmatic presence in the midfield, Williams is one of the most naturally gifted rugby players of the professional era. Significant size and pace interwoven with incredible ball skills make him a spectacular sight in the number 12 jersey.
13. Conrad Smith
Super Rugby caps: 126
Smart as a whip, strong and fast, Smith was revered presence in both the Hurricanes and All Blacks teams. There seemed no skill in the rugby book that he was not accustomed to. His solid defence and running lines made him a joy to watch.
14. Tana Umaga
A truly wonderful rugby talent. Umaga started out on the wing before moving across to the centres in the latter part of his career. His anticipation and opportunism were often breathtaking and the sight of him in full stride with his dreadlocks flowing behind became a favourite in New Zealand.
15. Christian Cullen
Super Rugby caps: 85
An attacking masterclass, Cullen often seemed to employ a sixth sense on the rugby field – scoring tries from anywhere and nowhere. Even though he is cut from an older era, his talent would walk into any modern team.