With the dust barely settled on the Grand Finals of Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU, we have asked two experts to choose the best players from one to 15 in the respective competitions eligible to play in the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.
From 14-15 May, the five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises will go head-to-head with their Australian counterparts on consecutive weekends, culminating in the Grand Final on Saturday 19 June.
World Rugby commentator and former New Zealand Sevens international Karl Te Nana has been all over the action from the Super Rugby Aotearoa, while former Wallaby half-back Brian Smith has been integral to the development of a lot of the Super Rugby AU players through his role as Director of Rugby at the prestigious Scots College in Sydney. He has also been keeping a keen eye on proceedings thanks to World Rugby’s live streaming service.
The four finalists – the Crusaders and Chiefs and the Reds and Brumbies – account for 22 of the 30 players selected by our guest selectors.
1. Loose-head prop
Joe Moody (Crusaders)
KTN: Easily the best loose-head in the competition until he got injured. Since then, the Crusaders’ scrum has faltered, proving just how important he is to the team.
Tom Robertson (Force)
BS: He’s the ugly duckling of the front-row club right now in that he’s not the best at anything but he’s been a consistent performer and has made a real statement for the Force this season.
Codie Taylor Crusaders)
KTN: The best thrower in the competition and he has scored some quality tries too, not just off the back of a maul.
Feleti Kaitu’u (Force)
BS: Most people have not registered him as a Wallaby contender … yet. He’s going to shake things up. A real set-piece monster.
KTN: Angus Ta'avao (Chiefs)
Had some rough scrummaging performances early on, but you cannot ignore the fact that since the game against the Hurricanes that kicked off their five-game winning streak, he has hardly gone backwards.
BS: Taniela Tupou (Reds)
Another storming season from the best tight-head Australia has ever produced. He could easily have been the MVP for the comp. That’s a big effort from prop.
KTN: Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Although some locks have big games from time to time, Sam brings quality week in and week out. New Zealand’s premier lock.
BS: Cadeyrn Neville (Brumbies)
The Brumbies had the best lineout and it’s down to this guy. He works hard and steps up to control the lineout and that’s crucial in our game.
KTN: Tupou Va'ai (Chiefs)
His stock continues to rise after his first season as an All Black. Physically imposing.
BS: Trevor Hosea (Reds)
I think this guy can be world-class. He has it all. Athletic and tough, he’s outstanding in the set-piece and adds grunt around the park.
6. Blindside flanker
KTN: Shannon Frizzell (Highlanders)
A standout performer week in, week out.
BS: Rob Valetini (Brumbies)
A big carrier and big defender. He adds physicality on both sides of the ball. Can also cover number eight.
7. Openside flanker
KTN: Dalton Papali'I (Blues)
Physically imposing as a seven and an out-and-out fetcher. One of the top turnover exponents at the breakdown.
BS: Fraser McReight (Reds)
The heir to the Michael Hooper throne with his outstanding ability as a fetcher. Guaranteed to get plenty of game time in a Wallabies jersey this season.
KTN: Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)
He was the best performer when the Chiefs were losing and became a huge factor in turning their fortunes around. Damian McKenzie kicks winners and people like Jacobson earn the opportunities for it to happen.
BS: Will Harris (Waratahs)
Has had to work hard in a struggling Waratahs outfit but he’s going to be a big player for Australia going forward. His lineout work is outstanding and he’s stepping up as a carrier.
KTN: Brad Weber (Chiefs)
His form was consistently high even when the Chiefs were on their losing streak. Co-captaincy really has helped his individual game.
BS: Tate McDermott (Reds)
A livewire runner who’s always a step ahead of forward defenders close to the line. Australia has not had a try-scoring half-back like this guy for a long time.
KTN: Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)
Been class all competition. Continues to evolve as a 10.
BS: James O’Connor (Reds)
Has never looked back since he joined forces with Dave Alred. He’s always been a great runner of the ball but he is now kicking it beautifully too. Developing into a world-class playmaker.
KTN: Jona Nareki (Highlanders)
It has taken him a couple of seasons to acclimatise but he’s just enjoyed his best season in Super Rugby. Has scored some amazing tries not only through his speed but also his strength.
BS: Jordan Petaia (Reds)
He can play anywhere in the outside backs and is a huge strike threat. He edges out some wonderful finishers for this spot based on his experience and versatility.
12. Inside centre
KTN: Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)
Stood up well when both the Hurricanes’ top-two number 10s were ruled out for the season early on. Has added a kicking game to his attacking arsenal to become an all-around threat.
BS: Hunter Paisami (Reds)
It’s incredible to think the Rebels didn’t want him. He’s been the best running back in the comp and is first pick in the Wallabies backline to play France. Possesses great vision and has the skill and ability to step up in the big moments. Hopefully, a fractured cheekbone won’t keep him out for too long.
13. Outside centre
KTN: Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)
Has become a leader for the Chiefs and is in the form of his life. Continues to make the correct decisions on attack and defence at critical times. A major reason in the Chiefs’ turnaround.
BS: Len Ikitau (Brumbies)
A dynamic runner who has been too hot to handle for most defences this season. He will make a big impact at the next level because he’s also a leader.
KTN: Will Jordan (Crusaders)
A lethal try scorer. Always makes things happen and is a triple threat with his speed, step and strength. Great under the high ball, too.
BS: Marika Koroibete (Reds)
He’s not been a huge try-scorer this season but his stats are impressive. He tops the charts for tackle busts and offloads and is a proven big-game player.
KTN: Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes)
Has won games by himself this season. Physically imposing and has a very long kicking game both off the tee and in general play, and he’s also come in a lot at first receiver in phase play.
BS: Tom Banks (Brumbies)
He’s a clever player and leads the comp in line breaks which is exactly what you want from your primary kick returner. His line kicking is also pivotal if your pack fancy driving mauls to score.