Celebrating our game, Last Word On Rugby have combined the wealth of knowledge from all our staff and writers, to come up with the MC50 Most Influential Player Series. A list that profiles the many and growing number of players in World Rugby who are either the MVP of their country, competition or code: we continue with the Most Influential Rugby Player Series 5-9.
From XV’s to Sevens, this group of men and women is a detailed series that any sports fan will enjoy. Six Nations, Pro 12, Sevens Series or a Super Rugby player, join LWOR as we celebrate ‘the best of the best’. In alphabetical order, enjoy and share this series with your friends and family over the holidays, as we look back on the highest performing athletes in rugby union (for 2016).
Most Influential Rugby Player Series 5-9
#5 – Agustin Creevy
Age: 33 | Club: San Luis/Jaguares | Country: Argentina
A passionate leader, Los Pumas hooker Agustin Creevy is known for his motivational style as a captain. The ‘I lead, you follow’ mentality is strong in South American rugby. and within Argentinan rugby, the emotion has always risen to the surface.
In 2016, he also showed his national loyalty too. When Argentina joined the SANZAR family (to become SANZAAR inclusive) a reduced selection of players available to represent the side had impacted directly on what squad could challenge South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The solution was the Buenos Aires-based Jaguares.
Creevy had already had an esteemed International CV to date [Biarritz, Pampas, Montpellier and Worchester]. In a brave shift, Creevy dedicated himself to the Jaguares. Thier debut season was certainly up and down, but for him to abandon that Europe-based career brought more players back home–and it resulted in huge improvements.
Notably for Pumas head coach Daniel Hourcade, his side defeated the Springboks on home soil. Their 26-24 win in Salta is another monumental step toward more results, more consistency. With Creevy leading his men from the front, anything is possible for Los Pumas.
#6 – Israel Dagg
Age: 28 | Club: Napier Pirate Rugby/Crusaders | Country: New Zealand
By Scott Hornell
After the heartbreak of 2015; being overlooked for the victorious World Cup side, and then injury for his Hawkes provincial team, the re-emergence of Israel Dag is one of the stories of 2016. The outside back did what all good players should–he put in the hard work, and was rewarded.
Returning to the Crusaders after recovery, he seemed to have an energy and spark. It worked magic, as he was easily one of the more ‘slippery’ players of 2016. It gave the All Black selectors no option but to start him at fullback. And that was the right choice, as he opened the International rugby scoring card at Eden Park. A remarkable return to the heights of stardom.
Evident by the smile on his face, that did not disappear, even when at the semi final stages, the Crusaders came up short (once again). He shrugged it off, and aimed directly at The Rugby Championship. Over six games, he scored five times to reaffirm his standing. Even when switched to right wing [Ben Smith evidently the best fullback option] Dagg just smiled and performed just as well.
Dagg Finishes 2016 As Top Finisher in Rugby
After TRC success, Dagg remained injury free and even though his All Blacks were unsuccessful in their match in Chicago, that failed to hold Dagg back. He was excellent in his performance against Italy, splendid in Dublin and then capped off the season in a triumph over Paris. It really was a complete season for Dagg, who for LWOR staff was their ‘Back of the Year’.
Note: Dagg and his wife Daisy announced that they are expecting a new baby, to top off his year to perfection.
#7 – Jonathon Davies
Age: 28 | Club: Llanelli/Scarletts | Country: Wales
By Robert Rees
A very strong runner, Jonathon Davies attacks the gaps in the defensive line to his teams advantage. Always looking for space, Davies is a center who likes to rip holes in the oppositions defense with his carving side steps and out-and-out pace.
Davies demonstrated this on many occasions in 2016. One of the more memorable was in Wellington, on the Wales three test tour. In a fleeting burst, he powered past Super Rugby star Seta Taminivalu. His dummy run and fend was a highlight, although only a small glimmer in a three test whitewash–Davies is known for his energy and ability to inspire team mates; like this.
He also possesses a kicking ability that you wouldn’t expect from your outside center. You can often find him chucking in a grubber kick through or a kick down-field for territory, which can really help his side. His strong running ability has also helped the Scarlets give great performances against Europe’s elite of Saracens and Toulon. At times, Davies powerful runs often helped the Scarlets mount their next attack against the northern hemisphere’s best.
#8 – Pieter-Steph du Toit
Age: 24 | Teams: Western Province/DHL Stormers | Country: South Africa
By Ryan Jordan
The young Stormers lock and, occasional blind-side flanker, was one of the few South African players who can claim a relatively successful year in 2016. He was a stand out player for the Stormers during Super Rugby after returning from injury and he carried this form through the incoming Irish tour.
A member of the 2012 Under 20 Junior World Championship side, his elevation to the senior team was a quick transition. The last 12 months have proved to be his big step forward, and over The Rugby Championship and Springboks end of year tour to Europe performed admirably. du Toit deservedly won the South African Player of the Year award in 2016.
Pieter-Steph du Toit (above image) often came across as the one player on the field who knew what he was doing and had the drive to make a difference on the field. This may be an early call, but for writer Ryan Jordan ‘could du Toit be a future Springbok captain?’
#9 – Eben Etzebeth
Age: 25 | Club: NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes/Stormers | Country: South Africa
By Scott Hornell
Known as one of the most intimidating players in World Rugby, it is that intensity that makes Etzebeth a game changer–for both good and bad. Over 2016 he has had a mix of success and failure, but has always thrown his body at the challenge that lays ahead.
Like many African players, Etzebeth now plays his off season in Japan, so by the time that Super Rugby began, he placed all his energy into his DHL Stormers team. A brief injury delayed his form, but by the time Ireland arrived for a three match series, he was aiming to ‘hit it hard’.
Losing the first test was a blow to all Sringboks, and Etzebeth worked hard with Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit (see above) each pushed hard to win the series 2-1. Even when his Stormers team failed to reach any heights in Super Rugby, the big lock was still a menace whenever he ran out. And in The Rugby Championship, any close up of the intense Etzebeth’s eyes showed his commitment to the jersey….a jersey which was virtually ripped clean off by opposition player Alan Aalaalatoa.
Youngest Springbok to Earn 50 Caps
When breaking the 50th test cap record in South African rugby, it had been written since his debut back in 2012, many could see it early. With no major injury breaks [knock wood] the 25 year old may be striking 100 by his 30th birthday….and from there, time will only tell.
Follow the LWOR MC50 Series–the Fifty Most Influential Rugby Player Series leading up to the New Year: read #1-4 here.
“Main photo credit”