Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: To win Super 15 title, a ten out of tens is needed

Quade Cooper of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images
Quade Cooper of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images

It takes a world-class talent at first five to win Super Rugby as the honours board shows. Is Aaron Cruden ready to join this select crew?

Carlos Spencer [Blues]
1996, 1997 and 2003

Super Rugby hasn't seen a more instinctive or exciting ball player than Carlos Spencer. In his prime he was outrageously good: electric off the mark, clever, inventive and willing to chance his arm to the extent he even invented the pass to himself.

In 2003 he brought the best out a star-studded backline that saw them drop only one game such was their creativity and finishing power. He came to symbolise Auckland - confident, adventurous and perhaps even a touch arrogant but lovably arrogant. Spencer was an adequate game manager but given his ability to pull off the impossible from anywhere on the field, he didn't actually need a top-drawer tactical kicking game.

Andrew Mehrtens [Crusaders]
1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002

Mehrtens was the antithesis of Spencer - a symbol of Canterbury as much as Spencer epitomised Auckland. Mehrtens was steady, reliable, a great kicker, a great game manager and tactical operator. He could punish teams with his boot and was an under-rated force with ball in hand. Used his backs well and always kept his head.

Stephen Larkham [Brumbies]
2001 and 2004

Larkham was unconventional, oddly tall and lithe for a No10 he had an uncanny ability to pick the most oblique angles and drift into holes. He was a genius at finding space close to the ruck, used the inside pass expertly and played in the thick of the traffic. The Brumbies ran all their plays through him and he was impossible to read. He had an array of tactical short kicks in his repertoire and could bang it long if he needed to. Tackled hard and effectively as well.

Daniel Carter [Crusaders]
2005, 2006 and 2008

The talents of Daniel Carter are many and well known. He is, arguably, the best first five to ever play the game: certainly the most complete and there really hasn't been a No10 who has offered as much as him. He can pass, run, kick, tackle, ruck, score tries and probably scrummage if he ever had to. The Crusaders have been able to rely on his composure, vision and deadly strikes over the years. Under pressure, there is no one better than Carter - he breezes through the game making the right calls at the right times as was evident of Friday night. The Crusaders never look quite the same team without him.

Morne Steyn [Bulls]
2007, 2009 and 2010

Steyn is not everyone's cup of tea and sits at odds with the other title-winning 10s. He's not a natural runner or ball player but he is a brilliant goal-kicker, tactical navigator and the perfect first five for a Bulls side that likes to rely on the power of its forwards. Steyn's portfolio is limited but he's brilliant at the things he does.

Quade Cooper [Reds]
2011

The boy from Tokoroa may have capitulated at the World Cup but for the first six months of the year he was untouchable. He was similar to Spencer in that he played with no inhibitions - he reacted to what he saw and his capacity to turn defence into attack was unparalleled. Cooper brought the Reds to life, he skipped, danced, chip kicked and bamboozled. He was the best attacking No 10 by a distance last year.

- Herald on Sunday

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