Fans have taken to Twitter to take part in a voting campaign organised by the Super Rugby NZ account to determine who the best player from each Kiwi franchise has been this season.
Although only seven rounds of the competition were played before the tournament came to a standstill due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there have been plenty of standout performers from each club in 2020.
The Blues in particular surged into a vein of form rarely seen by the Auckland side since their last play-offs appearance in 2011, and currently sit in fourth place on the table while Super Rugby remains suspended.
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Leading their charge was rookie wing Mark Telea, who sits top the defenders beaten charts, and second in the try-scoring, clean breaks and metres carried tallies.
His efforts proved to be too much for skipper Patrick Tuipulotu, dependable midfielder TJ Faiane and impressive No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu, who were all unsuccessful nominees for Blues MVP in the voting polls.
Racking up 40 percent of the votes, Telea topped the podium with Tuipulotu finishing in second with 28 percent, while Sotutu came in at third with 23 percent, leaving Faiane in last spot with only nine percent of the count.
Lagging just behind the Blues on the standings are the Chiefs, whose 27-24 defeat to the Hurricanes in the last round of action has left them stuck in fifth spot for the time being.
Coached by new boss Warren Gatland, the Hamilton side had been in sparkling form before Super Rugby came to a halt, with the likes of flanker Lachlan Boshier, returning pivot Aaron Cruden, and All Blacks duo Brad Weber and Anton Lienert-Brown all shining in their respective positions.
All four players received nominations to be crowned Chiefs MVP for this season, but it was All Blacks prospect Boshier who ran away with the title, finishing in first place with a whopping 48 percent of the votes.
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Halves duo Cruden and Weber earned a joint-second finish with 20 percent of the count, while Lienert-Brown’s efforts won him 12 percent of the public’s hearts.
Just behind the Chiefs lie the Hurricanes, whose win over their North Island neighbours in Hamilton two weeks ago leaves them in sixth spot from as many matches.
That last-gasp win at FMG Stadium Waikato can be attributed to the boot of star fullback Jordie Barrett, who had proven to be one of the key players not just in that match, but throughout the entirety of the Hurricanes’ season.
The 17-test All Black subsequently won 44 percent of the public’s vote in a landslide victory for the Hurricanes MVP award, leading fellow nominees Ngani Laumape (26 percent), Ben Lam (16 percent) and Du’Plessis Kirifi (14 percent).
Further south are the New Zealand conference-leading Crusaders, who sit in third place overall and trail the first-placed Sharks by a solitary point.
With five wins from six matches, there have been a plethora of MVP candidates to choose from Scott Robertson’s side, but few, if any, have impressed more than three-cap All Blacks fullback David Havili.
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The 25-year-old had been in scintillating form for the reigning back-to-back-to-back champions until he needed emergency surgery to fix a bowel infection, sparking numerous calls for an international re-call.
Havili’s exploits earned him 34 percent of the fan vote, seven percent ahead of the second-placed Jack Goodhue, who edged out tireless rookie flanker Tom Christie by two percent, while new captain Scott Barrett came in at last place with 14 percent.
Things haven’t been so rosy for the Highlanders in 2020, as the Dunedin club sit in 11th place with just one to their name.
The raft of key departures has certainly taken its toll for the southern men this season, but the retention of 92-test All Black Aaron Smith last year was much-needed, as has been reflected in the fans’ votes.
The 31-year-old accrued a whopping 47 percent of the tally to outshine fellow Highlanders MVP nominees Jona Nareki (26 percent), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (15 percent) and Jesse Parete (12 percent).
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