Rugby is a game that sees a player’s name up in lights when they star for club and country. It is, however, the epitome of a team sport and there are some players who may not get all the special recognition, but who have massively contributed to their team’s success.
The nuggety hooker, the gnarled lock, the hardy prop, the centre who gives himself up to take the hit as he supplies the final pass, these are all unsung heroes who contribute greatly to their team’s success.
Here are 5 such unsung heroes we have identified in rugby today:
Nepo Laulala – All Blacks and Chiefs
When word of Owen Franks’s injury and his subsequent absence for Test matches spread, many thought the All Blacks scrum was there for the taking.
Enter Nepo Laulala who not only solidified the All Blacks scrum but established it as the dominant scrum in World Rugby over the course of the international season.
The New Zealand scrum has truly become a force to be reckoned with due to his mighty presence. When this is combined with his carrying ability and defensive tenacity, it is fair to say he did more than his fair share during the All Blacks November tour.
A classic unsung hero.
Kwagga Smith – Springbok 7s and Lions
Kwagga Smith is most probably the unluckiest back rower in the world at this point. What more does he have to do to win a Springbok jersey?
He was the driving force behind the Lions’ run to the Super Rugby final and at Twickenham he proved to be an absolute handful for the All Blacks to deal with when playing for the Barbarians.
He is under-appreciated in the XV-man code and deserves so much more than he has gotten so far when it comes to game time at the international level.
This would be true even if the Springboks were good, but with the South African national side being such a mess surely his time is coming soon.
Wes Goosen – Hurricanes and Wellington
A staple at the Hurricanes and Wellington, Wes Goosen has been an integral part of a back division that has caused so many problems for the opposition.
While Beauden Barrett, Ngani Laumape, and Vince Aso grabbed the headlines for the ‘Canes, they still required a supporting cast and that was one in which Goosen featured prominently.
Adept at playing in the centre and anywhere in the back three, his unique mixture of pace, finishing, and timing make him a weapon for every team he represented.
Bundee Aki – Connacht and Ireland
For Bundee Aki to go through all the undeserved criticism he did and still perform in his first cap for Ireland with as much passion and intensity as he did is a triumph for rugby.
Aki came out against the ‘Boks as committed as every single man donning that green jersey and struggled to hold back his emotions during the national anthem.
He put his body on the line and put his all into every tackle. He put in an emotionally charged performance and provided hope that maybe the age of the rugby mercenary has not descended upon us quite yet.
The dignity, passion, and class he showed amid the unwarranted storm of criticism surrounding his debut was deserving of such unsung hero status.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow – Chiefs and New Zealand
Though he got the call up for the November tour, TKB is truly an unsung hero.
He provides a different take on the No.9 role, one which the All Blacks will sorely miss now he is moving to France. His physicality, offloads, and general outstanding decision making are a compliment to what Aaron Smith and T.J Perenara offer.
Against France he showed his leadership potential as he guided the All Blacks through a difficult encounter with the French XV and one can’t help but feel that the full effect of his absence will only be felt in 2018 when he is no longer available to bail out the men in black.
Who stood out to you without being classed as a star? Let us know in the comments!
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