Today our legends series moves onto inside centre. This position is sure to stir up some debate but there is one player who deserves the mantel of being the greatest – that man is Ma’a Nonu.
Nonu, the blockbusting All Black centurion, epitomises everything about the perfect second five eighth. He can smash holes in opposing d-lines at will, he has a deft kicking game that leaves his opposition realing, he has an upredictable turn of pace that leaves defenders grasping at thin air and finally his passing game has matured to a point where he is almost unstoppable to defend against one-on-one.
His defensive game is equally strong and the partnership he formed with Dan Carter and Conrad Smith was a major factor for New Zealand’s dominance of world rugby over the last eight years.
Nonu has always had his critics but you can’t argue against the fact that there hasn’t really been anyone in world rugby that has been able to hold off such strong opposition for his jersey than Nonu has. Luke McAlister, Aaron Mauger, Casey Laulaula, Isaia Toeava and more recently Sonny Bill Williams have all tried to claim Nonu’s jersey. The big man’s ability to hold off that stiff competition over such a long period of time is testament to his playing ability.
Recently retired from international rugby after claiming his second World Cup title in England this year, it gives him the perfect opportunity to claim some club successes with the star-studded Toulon outfit. Winning at club level has evaded Nonu over the years and after getting so close with his beloved Hurricanes this year, he will be looking to close out his career with a bang.
After gaining 61 caps for Wellington, 126 for the Hurricanes and a whopping 103 tests for New Zealand, the loyal Wellingtonian can look back with a sense of pride. His vibrant personality and his professionalism for the game will be sorley missed on New Zealand shores.
Have fun in the south of France Ma’a – you are truly a legend of world rugby.
Video credit: TheRugbyPackHD.
Simon van Ryn, Pundit Arena