'Our best-ever': Former All Blacks duo name Richie Mo'unga as the best Super Rugby player of all-time
Wilson and Muliaina argued the mercurial 27-year-old could be viewed as the best player to ever compete in the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition while debating who warrants that title on The Breakdown.
Making his decision on the basis of longevity, title-winning success and the impact the player has had on his team and the competition, Wilson reasoned that Mo’unga’s influence in the Crusaders’ run to five successive Super Rugby titles “has been outstanding” since his debut in 2016.
“Maybe it is Richie Mo’unga. You think about the three Super Rugby titles, plus Super Rugby Aotearoa and another Super Rugby Aotearoa,” the 60-test All Black said.
“I’m looking at his performance, the impact that he has on the game… Yes, he’s playing for a Crusaders team which is outstanding and they are giving him a platform to play off, but under pressure in big moments when the game is on the line, he’s found ways to win.
“From the very moment he stepped on that field for them, he has been outstanding.”
Muliaina said it was “hard to disagree” with Wilson’s reasoning before adding that he was impressed by the feats Mo’unga had achieved at this stage of his career.
The former Blues and Chiefs utility back, who won the 2003 Super 12 title with the Blues, pointed to Mo’unga’s performances against the Reds last weekend and against the Chiefs earlier this year as examples of what he is capable of.
“For me, it’s the big moments that he wins. It’s not big moments when you win it to get a lineout and try and score. He wins big moments. You look at the Chiefs game, they were under the pump,” Muliaina said.
“When you kick a ball, you decide in your mind whether you’re good enough to kick that ball 10 metres, not only win it back, but score a try. Big moments like against a Reds team.”
Muliaina noted that although Mo’unga hasn’t had the chance to test himself against South African teams as much as past players, the impact he has had on the Crusaders can’t be understated.
“Yeah, he’s had a couple of dips, but I think his dips are still world-class, so when you look at someone like that and how significant some of the stuff he does and the titles that he’s won – and I know we haven’t played South Africa – but I think his influence on the Crusaders is huge.”
“Diamonds are forged under pressure and what’s become apparent is that the pressure applied in Super Rugby AU pales in comparison to what the NZ franchises faced in the Aotearoa competition.” #SuperRugbyTT
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 25, 2021
Wilson’s and Muliaina’s comments come just days after Mo’unga starred in the Crusaders’ 63-28 romp of the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
The 22-test international was in scintillating form, bagging a hat-trick of tries and scoring a personal total of 31 points as the Crusaders moved to third place on the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman standings.
Mo’unga’s performance came after he was widely praised for his game management and game-breaking talent throughout this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.
It followed last season’s standout display in the inaugural edition of Super Rugby Aotearoa, which won Mo’unga Super Rugby Player of the Year at the New Zealand Rugby Awards for the second time in his career.
He stands as a frontrunner to claim the title for a third time this year, but that wasn’t enough to sway former Black Ferns midfielder Hannah Porter, who argued Mo’unga’s predecessor Dan Carter is the best player in Super Rugby history.
“141 games, 1700 points – for me, there’s only one person that can be, and it’s Dan Carter, I think,” Porter told The Breakdown.
“Richie Mo’unga’s on the way to track that path, but he’s not quite there yet. The amount of games that Dan Carter played and the influence that he had on all of them stands out.”
Former All Blacks wing Sir John Kirwan said it was difficult to determine which player deserves to be crowned the best Super Rugby player of all-time because their performances in test rugby clouded his judgement of their efforts in Super Rugby.
The ex-Blues coach conceded Mo’unga has the “possibility” to become New Zealand’s best-ever player, but he still believes Carter remains the greatest of all-time.
“Labelling the association and players as greedy is facile and disingenuous.”
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 25, 2021
“… Richie Mo’unga the other night was outstanding, but I struggle when he’s so young and only this far through his career, so I could say to you, ‘This guy will break all the records’, but, for me, of all-time, I’d probably have to go with DC at the moment.”
Wilson went on to list his top five players in Super Rugby history, ranking Mo’unga at the top with 79 matches, 903 points, 28 tries and five titles to his name.
Carter came in at second place, while Bulls first-five Morne Steyn, who won three Super Rugby titles between 2007 and 2010 and is currently enjoying a rich vein of form for the Pretoria-based franchise in the Rainbow Cup, rounded out Wilson’s top three.
Former Brumbies captain George Gregan, the only player who wasn’t a first-five to feature in the top five, and ex-Crusaders No 10 Andrew Merhtens were the others included in Wilson’s list.
Wilson added that he considered other players such as former Blues hooker Keven Mealamu, ex-Hurricanes fullback Christian Cullen, Highlanders co-captain Aaron Smith and former Crusaders captain Richie McCaw for Super Rugby’s best-ever player.
However, the 47-year-old said the importance of a top-class first-five is paramount to a team’s success in Super Rugby, which is why those who played in the No 10 jersey dominated his top five list.
“I’m not ignoring every other position, I think it just emphasises more and more the fact how critical it is that if you want to have success at every level [then you need a top first-five], hence why they’re in demand.”
Jeff Wilson’s Top Five Super Rugby Players Of All-Time
1. Richie Mo’unga (79 matches, 903 points, 28 tries, 5 titles)
2. Dan Carter (141 matches, 1708 points, 36 tries, 3 titles)
3. Morne Steyn (129 matches, 990 points, 14 tries, 3 titles)
4. George Gregan (136 matches, 117 points, 21 tries, 2 titles)
5. Andrew Mehrtens (88 matches, 990 points, 13 tries, 5 titles)
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