Game breakers and match makers

There has been plenty cross-franchise movement in all three countries. Who will make the biggest impact in this season’s Super Rugby tournament?

The SMH’s rugby experts identified their top 20 transfers of players they believe will influence the fortunates of their new respective teams.

Here’s the list (in no ranking order)

1. Butch James (Lions to Sharks)
2. Gareth Anscombe (Blues to Chiefs)
3. Fumiaki Tanuaka (Otago to Highlanders)
4. Peter Betham (Sydney University to Tahs)
5. Clyde Rathbone (retirement to Brumbies)
6. Jason Woodward (Wellington to Rebels)
7. Hugh McMeniman (Reds to Force)
8. Elton Jantjies (Lions to Stormers)
9. Ben Franks (Saders to Canes)
10. Tony Woodcock (Blues to Landers)
11. Alby Mathewson (Blues to Force)
12. Scott Higginbotham (Reds to Rebels)
13. Ma’a Nonu (Blues to Landers)
14. Jaco Taute (Lions to Stormers)
15. Israel Folau (Aus Rules to Tahs)
16. Brad Thorn (Japan to Landers)
17. Michael Hooper (Brumbies to Tahs)
18. David Pocock (Force to Brumbies)
19. Sarel Pretorius (Tahs to Cheetahs)
20 Graham Henry (All Blacks to Blues as technical advisor)

Of the list I rate Henry as the individual who will have the most impact. The man who guided the Blues to two titles in three finals, also experienced the winning feeling when technical advisor for the Blues prior to his appointment as All Blacks coach. This was on his return from Wales.

Hooper and Pocock will be huge, Jantjies if played will make a difference to the Stormers ability to score tries, Israel Folau is the kind of player the game needs and will prove an inspiring cross-code switch.

Fumiaki Tanuaka is a Japanese scrumhalf who plays the game very differently and at a pace that will make him effective in the last quarter to half an hour of a game. His energy against tired legs, especially those lazy pillars of defence at the breakdown will add a dimension to the Highlanders.

Brad Thorn will give the Highlanders leadership and gravitas but when looking at the list of 20 I would say that the fortunes of the campaign influence is limited to just five names in Henry, Pocock, Jantjies, Hooper and Folau. Henry as the tactician and the others as players are all individually good enough to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Your thoughts?

By Mark Keohane