The Southern Hemisphere contains rugby’s most feared beings. A potent mix of height and mass that forever crash through bodies on the sports field.
Here is a look at the players still left in the Super 15 who have made the biggest contribution to their side’s defensive work with tackle after tackle for the cause.
Pieter Labuschagne, Central Cheetahs
Imagine 105 kilograms hurtling at you at 20 mph continuously for 80 minutes.
That is the objective for South African flanked Labuschagne every time he takes to the field. It’s no surprise the Cheetahs sit third in the tackling charts when you consider the 230-plus tackles their forward has landed.
The Cheetahs star comprehensively tops the tackle stats league and his hitting is imperative to the Cheetahs' success. They face a mammoth task to make it out of their sudden-death playoff and will need every ounce of effort from their leading tackler to help break down superior opposition.
Together with loose forward Philip van der Walt, Labuschagne has battered opposition into submission. As faster, stronger opponents come up against the Cheetahs, he can be the difference.
Matt Todd, Canterbury Crusaders
Fourth on the tackling list sits Matt Todd, who has enjoyed an impressive season with the Crusaders, who now face the playoffs to determine their future in the competition.
Todd has bruised opponents close to 200 times already this campaign and will be looking to add to that tally as his side chase glory.
Todd comes alive at the breakdown, leading his Crusaders coach to label him “the turnover King,” according to the club website. He can’t break into the All Blacks side, though, and will be desperately hoping that Super 15 success will lead to opportunities with his country.
The Courier-Mail's Jamie Pandaram suggests that donning the famous No. 7 jersey in replacement of Crusaders legend Richie McCaw has made Todd even more ambitious.
“That makes you hungry,” Todd said. “You want to make the most of every opportunity because you don't know when you will play again.”
Sam Cane, Waikato Chiefs
Another man you’d be wise to avoid when angry is Sam Cane. Even though he is just 21 years old, the New Zealander is unafraid to launch himself into tackles.
Unsurprisingly, his performances have been noted by the All Blacks after taking the rugby world by storm in his youth. His 179 tackles put him fifth in the overall standings—impressive given he hasn’t been guaranteed a club start this season.
The Chiefs emphatically won their Round 20 without Cane, who had a head knock according to Radio Sport's Guy Heveldt. But with a week’s rest guaranteed after they secured an automatic semifinal spot, he has plenty of time to return.
They boast an incredibly strong team, and with Cane only likely to improve and get more powerful, it’s an exciting time for the New Zealanders.
Worrying for the Chiefs, though, is that they have struggled to keep the door shut and need other team members to step up and fly into challenges like Cane.