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Top 5 Fly-Halfs in Super Rugby History

Jeff CheshireAnalyst IIApril 9, 2012

Top 5 Fly-Halfs in Super Rugby History

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    This week we continue our series of the greatest players in Super Rugby history by looking at the best to wear the No. 10 jersey.

    Fly-half, or first five-eighth, is one of the most important positions on a rugby field, as it is the man in this jersey that makes the majority of the decisions. The fly-half must run the game, sum up a situation and decide what the best option to take is.

    The skill set generally requires someone with a good boot who knows when to use it, while also being able to use his back line outside him effectively. Being able to run is generally a characteristic of a good fly-half. Being a strong defender, though, is what will separate the good ones from the great ones.

    Above all, though, it is the ability to use these skills intelligently that determines how good a fly-half truly is.

    There's been some good ones in the first 16 years of Super Rugby and you need only look at the number of championships between the men on the following slides to see just how important having an intelligent fly-half is in this competition.

    As always, a player is only eligible for selection in one position and only Super Rugby form is taken into account.

5. Carlos Spencer

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    There have been few players more controversial than Carlos Spencer. But love him or hate him, it's hard to deny the impact he made on Super Rugby. 

    Playing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the game suited a team that could run the ball and a good playmaker at the pivot was essential to doing this effectively. And it was this that made Carlos one of the most dangerous players in the competition in his heyday.

    He was adept at putting his men outside him away, but also proved a dangerous runner himself and was arguably the best player in the Blues' championship-winning team in 2003.

    He could also be reckless and his brilliance could tend to be overshadowed by moments of madness.

    Spencer debuted for the Blues in 1996, playing 96 games for the franchise and winning championships in 1996, 1997 and 2003. 

4. Morne Steyn

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    It's hard to think of a better kicker of the ball than Morne Steyn. Whether it be goal-kicking, drop-kicking or kicking in general play, if there was one person you would want to bet your life on getting the right result, Steyn is your man.

    His goal-kicking percentage is freakishly high, so much so that it has become an event to see him miss more than once in a game.

    He can also be counted upon to clear the ball under pressure and can generally make good metres when kicking for touch. To go with this, he is possibly the best drop-kicker in the world and it's not uncommon to see him slip into the pocket and slot a dropped goal.

    Defensively, he's not the strongest player, and his running game isn't that of some others. However, this could possibly be due to the lack of opportunity he gets in a Bulls team where the mindset has been to kick in recent years.

    Despite this, he has shown he knows how to run a back line, having some very good tries scored outside him over the years.

    Aged just 27, there's still so much more yet to be told in the story of Morne Steyn. But if he chose to leave the franchise today, he would do so with the superb record of three championships in 2007, 2009 and 2010, being a key member in the latter two.

3. Daniel Carter

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    It may surprise some of you to see Dan Carter so low on this list. And if this was a list of the greatest fly-halfs of all time, I would agree that Carter would be right at the top.

    But this isn't a list of the greatest fly-halfs of all time, thus Carter must be contempt with No. 3 for now.

    As far as all-around players go, there's few better than Carter. His running game is outstanding, he can set up his outsides efficiently, his defence is superb and his kicking game is generally good. 

    There really isn't a weakness in his game. 

    But Super Rugby hasn't always seen the best of him. In recent years, he's entered the season midway through after getting over an injury and hasn't truly been at his best until very late in the season.

    Despite this, he's still been key for the Crusaders since his debut in 2003 and has often been recognised has the best player in the competition. He won championships in 2005, 2006 and 2008, and more impressively has never been on a team that's failed to make the playoffs.

    He's signed on with the NZRU until the end of 2015, but he is clearly nearing the end of his career. A true great of the game that undoubtedly will continue to provide us with memorable moments, appreciate him while you still can.

2. Stephen Larkham

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    He started as a full-back, but it was in the No. 10 jersey that Stephen Larkham will be remembered as a legend of the game.

    One of the best runners to ever play the game, Larkham was capable of cutting through a defence with his elusive running and deceptive speed. He was a top playmaker, making the Brumbies arguably the most dangerous attacking team in the competition.

    The partnership he formed with George Gregan has become legendary, so much so that it's hard to think of one without the other.

    He played for the Brumbies from 1996 through until 2007, winning championships in 2001 and 2004.

1. Andrew Mehrtens

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    It was hard to decide who to put top of this list given the abundance of talent to choose from. But there was one thing that stood out clearly with one man and that was the huge influence he had on every game he played in. It is for that reason that Andrew Mehrtens is ranked as the greatest fly-half in Super Rugby history.

    He was a tactical genius who possessed an exceptional boot, putting his team in position to win games time and time again. To go with this, he was a top goal-kicker and was also a proficient drop-kicker, which is something of a rarity for New Zealand fly-halfs. 

    But it was his intelligence that really separates him from the rest. His superb kicking and passing skills would have counted for very little without his unmatched vision, instinct and calmness.

    He was the key player in four of the five championships he won with the Crusaders, three-peating between 1998 and 2000, while also claiming victory in 2002 and finishing off his time with a fifth in 2005.

    No player in any position has ever been as influential to a team's success as Mehrtens was to these Crusaders teams.

    And if you are still in doubt of this claim, consider this: When Mehrtens missed the 1996 season due to injury, the Crusaders finished last in the competition. Two years later, he had guided them to their first championship against what appeared to be an invincible Blues side. 

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