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Super Rugby's top 10 players: Aussie props dominate, but Kiwi sensation smiling on the summit

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22nd February, 2024
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As we finish up our list of the 50 players we think are set to make a splash in 2024, it’s important to recognise how many strong players will be ready to put their hand up for higher honours this year.

As rivalries are set to enter a new phase, coaches start new tenures and established sides look to defend titles, many may think that this season may go the way of previous years. Truth be told, it will be hard to determine if that will be the case until a good way into the year. 

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

Regardless, the ten names below are not only a valuable part of their Super Rugby sides, but a crucial part of their respective national sides. It won’t just be based on form and talent: the impact of these players has been shown to have the potential to win titles. 

THE TOP 50, 20-11

THE TOP 50, 30-21

THE TOP 50, 40-31

THE TOP 50, 50-41

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Without further ado, here are our top 10:

Allan Alaalatoa of the Wallabies looks on during the The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Allan Alaalatoa (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

10. Allan Alaalatoa – ACT Brumbies

There were a lot of bad memories for Australian fans in 2023, but arguably one of the cruellest was the depressing sight of captain Allan Alaalatoa limping off the field in Melbourne with a ruptured Achilles. A skilled veteran and well-regarded player, the loss of his experience proved fatal for the Wallabies in 2023.

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His ability to hold together the Brumbies’ imposing scrum will be crucial for their title aspirations: not just as a starting player and captain, but as an influence on the strong depth Australia is building in the front row.

Scott Barrett of New Zealand

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

9. Scott Barrett – Crusaders

Captain of the Crusaders, and touted as the future permanent captain of the All Blacks, if anyone is going to take the title out of Canterbury they have to go through one of the best players in the world. 

With Scott Robertson commencing preparations as All Blacks coach, it almost seems inevitable that Barrett will be part of the next new phase in All Black history.

8. Rob Valetini – ACT Brumbies

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Bar one exception higher on the list, Rob Valetini was probably the stand-out player in Australia’s best-performing Super Rugby side. A dangerous, versatile loose forward, partnered with the likes of Jahrome Brown, ‘Bobby V’ has made a dangerous habit of turning all teams inside out, and his form especially at home is a major contribution to why the Brumbies have made Canberra a hard place for even the best sides to win at.

While the make-up of Joe Schmidt’s Wallabies is still to be determined, it would be inconceivable to not see Valetini in the run-on side. 

7. Angus Bell – NSW Waratahs

Despite the disappointment of 2023 for the Wallabies, a few players ended the year with their stocks firmly raised, and these players should give Australian fans hope the Wallabies of the future can turn things around. No breakout Australian player ended the year with their stocks raised higher than Angus Bell.

A player who instantly improved the Waratahs’ scrum when he returned from injury, his transition to the Wallabies was outstanding. One of the most aggressive, hard-hitting runners Australia has seen in years with an outstanding set piece, Bell bashed his way into the run-on side, and to the top of the pecking order for an exciting group of props coming through the ranks in Australia. He’s going to have a huge year for the Waratahs. 

Taniela Tupou of the Wallabies poses during a Rugby Australia media opportunity launching the Wallabies 2023 Rugby World Cup jersey, at Coogee Oval on June 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

6. Taniela Tupou – Melbourne Rebels

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Some may think Tupou might be too high on the list in light of his Wallabies form, but at the Super Rugby level, he has maintained his reputation as the Tongan Thor. Should the move to Melbourne galvanise him, he could return to being one of the most damaging players in World Rugby, never mind Super Rugby.

The Rebels have fantastic depth in the front row, with the likes of Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai and Pone Fa’amausili all vying for the starting side. If Tupou gets back to peak form, the Rebels’ chances of making finals for the first time expand into an extremely realistic possibility. 

Rieko Ioane of the All Blacks (C) looks for a gap during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Ireland at Sky Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Rieko Ioane (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

5. Rieko Ioane – Blues

The Blues have a lot of attacking weapons in both the forwards and backs. But, when it comes to the most dangerous weapon of them all in Auckland, it is the current All Black centre, Rieko Ioane. A ruthless distributor and dangerous ball runner, it speaks to his calibre that the NZRU last year re-signed him until the end of the 2027 World Cup.

Ioane will almost certainly make up a key part of Robertson’s leadership group heading into the next few years. Given he has cracked over 100 caps for the Blues by the age of 26, he is already well on his way to being one of the greatest players to represent the Auckland franchise. Expect his role to only grow in New Zealand.

Len Ikitau of the Brumbies looks dejected as he leaves the field after being given a red card during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final match between the ACT Brumbies and the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium on June 04, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Len Ikitau. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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4. Len Ikitau – ACT Brumbies

If Allan Alaalatoa was the critical loss that broke the Wallabies set piece in 2023, Len Ikitau limping off against Los Pumas was another horrible moment in a failure of a year. Despite only having 29 international caps, Ikitau is the clear first choice when you think of Australia’s centres, and his reputation is further bolstered because his form at the Brumbies has been nothing short of exceptional.

Matching the sledgehammer and running skills of Samu Kerevi, Ikitau improves on the Reds veteran further with outstanding game awareness and an ability to put players in space. Australian teams may go down, but Ikitau is rarely bested by his opposite number. He is Australia’s most dangerous attacking player and a crucial reason why the Brumbies backline fires so well. 

Will Jordan of New Zealand celebrates scoring the team's twelfth try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between New Zealand and Italy at Parc Olympique on September 29, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

Will Jordan (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

3. Will Jordan – Crusaders

It is such a shame to hear the news released earlier this week that Will Jordan will be unable to take part this season due to a shoulder injury. However, with a return to the All Blacks this year likely, it is important to still recognise how dangerous a player he is.

At only 24 years old, he’s won more titles than most players have over a whole career. Every season since he made his 2019 debut for the Crusaders, he has won a title. A World Cup grand finalist, he scored eight tries in France, the most of any player in the 2023 iteration. Regularly appearing at the top of the ‘most tries scored in a season’ lists at both domestic and international levels, he is the first name that comes to mind when you think of the best finishers of Super Rugby Pacific.

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Even in the 12-time champions’ star-studded lineup, he still stands out. A likely walk-in to the All Blacks’ back three, the scary thing is that we still may not have yet seen Jordan peak. It is a huge loss for the Crusaders this season.

2. Samisoni Taukei’aho – Chiefs

There are many reasons for the Chiefs’ stunning turnaround in form from the 2020-2021 slump under Warren Gatland. While current coach Clayton McMillan and Damian McKenzie are often cited as key factors for this pretenders-to-contenders journey, the growth of Samisoni Taukei’aho cannot be understated. His transformation over the last few years arguably sees him sit as the most dangerous all-around forward in Super Rugby.

Clinical at set piece, Samisoni is also one of the hardest-working players in general play, and the key driving force behind the Chiefs damaging forward pack. While Codie Taylor’s performances for the All Blacks have Samisoni relegated to the bench, it is clear he is the starting hooker-in-waiting, and with good reason… his form will play a major part in whether the Chiefs can win a third title. 

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs charges forward during the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Damian McKenzie. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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1. Damian McKenzie – Chiefs 

Putting together this list was a challenging exercise given the sheer talent available in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. However, there was never any doubt as to who would top the list. Much ink has already been spilled regarding the smiling assassin, Damian McKenzie. However, when it comes to sheer talent, the pressure to perform, and the significance a single player can have on the future of the All Blacks, it is hard to go past DMac.

Simply put, his form at the Chiefs has been outstanding, as a quality tactician following in the footsteps of Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett. When it comes to the key questions around who will lift the Super Rugby Pacific title come the end of the season, most are swirling around the form of McKenzie. Few players have come into a season with more anticipation around how they will perform, but in the case of DMac, the hype is more than warranted.

Who do you think are the best players set to take Super Rugby Pacific by storm this season? Did we miss anyone? Comment below and let us know!

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