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All Black props rated hardest hitters in Super Rugby Pacific

By Ben Smith
Ethan de Groot of New Zealand salutes the fans after winning the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Ireland and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The Super Rugby Pacific captains have given up their first-hand knowledge on the hardest hitters in the competition with a handful of All Blacks making the cut.

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Leading the way was Highlanders loosehead prop Ethan de Groot who took multiple votes as a hitman who made ball carriers pay.

It’s no surprise the 25-year-old is at the top of the list after leading a tight five rejuvenation for the All Blacks in 2022.

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De Groot was part of the front row trio including Samisoni Taukei’aho and Tyrel Lomax that led a turnaround in the latter half of that year that resulted in a Rugby World Cup final appearance a year later.

The Southland prop immediately made his presence felt on the tour of South Africa in 2022 by belting a number of Springbok forwards as the All Blacks rediscovered a hard-nosed defence.

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Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu was quick to name All Black prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi as a power hitter in Super Rugby.

The 31-year-old has long been a force in defence when he connects, well remembered for a crunching hit on former Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley in 2017.

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Foley was cut in half by a Tu’ungafasi special that saw the ball pop skyward in that Bledisloe Cup clash.

For the Hurricanes, powerful hooker Asafo Aumua was tipped by Brad Shields while former Crusader Sione Havili was mentioned by Moana Pasifika captain James Lay. Crusaders captain Scott Barrett named one-cap All Black Cullen Grace as the club’s hardest hitter.

Wallabies tighthead prop Taniela Tupou was named by his international propping partner Allan Alaalatoa while Australian flanker Michael Wells was also nominated.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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