Top 5 Outside Centres in Super Rugby History

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIMarch 14, 2012

Top 5 Outside Centres in Super Rugby History

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    Week four of the countdown of Super Rugby's greatest players sees us shift our attention to the No. 13 jersey. Outside Centre, or Centre if you are from New Zealand, is a position that has produced some of Super Rugby's best, with some true legends of the past decade appearing on the coming slides.

    Outside Centre is a position that requires a mix of attacking flair, distribution skills, rock solid defence and a certain intelligence. A blend of these makes for a top player in this position, and can be key to ensuring his outsides are as effective as they should be.

    As always, remember each player is only eligible for one position and only Super Rugby form is taken into account.

5. Conrad Smith

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    Possibly the most intelligent player in the current game and the best backline defender, Conrad Smith finds his way into our list of Super Rugby's greatest players.

    He possesses great instincts and can put his wingers into space well with his good distribution skills. To go with this, he is capable of taking a gap and making a break, although he isn't going to bust through a defence and generally doesn't draw too many defenders.

    His tackling technique is superb, going for the classical round the legs approach, as opposed to going high and looking for the big hits like many modern day players do. Consequently, he is now known as one of the best defenders in the world and rarely misses a tackle.

    Early in his career, he was plagued by injury, preventing him from reaching his true potential. The past four years have seen him display some great form in Super Rugby and emerge as one of the top centres in the competition. 

    He debuted for the Hurricanes in 2004, pairing initially with Tana Umaga and later Ma'a Nonu in the midfield to form lethal combinations. 2012 has seen Smith take on the captaincy of the team, as he now remains one of the few experienced heads amongst a team full of young talent.

4. Jason Little

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    He may have played the best of his rugby in the pre-Super era, but such a great player was Jason Little that it is hard to leave him off a list of Super Rugby's greatest players. 

    In the early years of the competition he formed arguably the most threatening midfield combination in Super Rugby history with Tim Horan. These two were the Reds' chief attacking threats during the first four years of the Super 12. Consequently, these teams did very well, and generally racked up plenty of points.

    He was a good all-around player, possessing a good step making him an elusive runner and giving him the ability to find the line. To go with this, he was able to use his outsides well, making him a strong attacking threat to any team.

    Had Super Rugby come into existence earlier, Little would surely appear higher on this list. As it is, in his five years in the competition, he did more than enough to class him amongst its elite players of all time.

3. Jaque Fourie

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    A strong runner with an eye for the line, Jaque Fourie poses possibly the biggest attacking threat of all the players on this list. 

    He had the ability to break tackles and make good runs, gaining good metres with ball in hand and scoring some very good long range tries.

    Defensively, he was generally good, too, capable of putting in some big hits and forcing the opposition onto the back foot.

    The fact that he stood out on a struggling Lions team between 2003 and 2009 is possibly the best indicator of how good he was. Looking good on a poor team is very hard in the No. 13 jersey.

    In 2010, he moved to the Stormers, where he made his biggest impact, proving an integral part of the team for the next two years. He helped them make the final in 2010 and the semifinals in 2011.

2. Stirling Mortlock

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    The second highest points scorer and the second most capped player in Super Rugby history, Stirling Mortlock is truly a legend of the competition, and goes desperately close to claiming the top spot.

    It feels as though he's been around forever. In a way, he has, making his debut in 1998 with the Brumbies, playing with the franchise until 2010, after which he made a move to the new Melbourne Rebels team where he continues to play. 

    In his younger days, he was a dangerous attacker, a strong runner capable of breaking through opposing backlines. As he grew older, he became a more steady player, a strong defender and a level head in the midfield. 

    What really separates him from the rest is his goal kicking ability, proving a reliable kicker for the Brumbies, scoring 1,031 Super Rugby points with over 800 of these coming in kicks.

    He has also scored 55 tries, placing him fifth on the all time list behind only Doug Howlett, Caleb Ralph, Joe Roff and Christian Cullen. His 138 caps also place him second on the all-time list behind Nathan Sharpe, a total that will increase as he remains part of the Rebels setup.

1. Tana Umaga

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    Tana Umaga started as a tearaway winger and ended as a rock solid inside centre, but it was in the No. 13 jersey that he really carved his legacy, icing the top spot on this week's list.

    For his first five years in the Super 12, he was a dangerous, strong winger who knew how to find the line in a Hurricanes backline loaded with X-Factor. In 2001, he shifted into the midfield, where he really made his name, still posing the same attacking threat

    He also knew how to use his outsides effectively.

    Defensively, he was as tough as they come, always making his presence felt.

    As a captain, there were few better. Umaga turned the Hurricanes from a team with a load of potential into one that would deliver the goods during the mid-2000s.

    Umaga was involved in the inaugural Super 12 with the Hurricanes, playing with the franchise through until his departure from New Zealand in 2007. In 2011, he returned to New Zealand where he took on a player-coach role with the Chiefs. He retired with 128 caps, including 48 tries.

    His last appearance at the age of 38 made him the oldest player in the history of the competition. 


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