Super Rugby Aotearoa - Most Valuable Players: 10-1

The wait is almost over, Super Rugby Aotearoa is now just a couple of days away.

To celebrate, we've come up with our list of the top 20 Most Valuable Players for the new competition.

After publishing 20-11 on Thursday, here is the top 10.

10. Sam Cane [Chiefs]

The new All Blacks captain was involved in five of the Chiefs' six games before the suspension, putting up the kind of consistent numbers we've come to expect. Cane has also become more of a link player in recent times, his short passing/tip-ons putting teammates through the smallest of holes. But it's on the ball where he remains most effective and where he will target teams in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

9. Sevu Reece [Crusaders]

Last year's true All Blacks bolter, Reece turned a sensational debut Super Rugby season into a memorable Test bow, before finishing the World Cup as New Zealand's first-choice right winger. He brings speed and footwork to the Crusaders' back three; opposition teams know what can happen if he is given too much space.

8. Jordie Barrett [Hurricanes]

One of the most versatile players in the game, Barrett is still to really settle into one position for the long term. But it seems new Hurricanes coach Jason Holland likes him at fullback, and the consensus is that is indeed his best position. Barrett will have taken a huge amount of confidence from his match-winning penalty over the Chiefs, his long-range boot a key point-of-difference.

7. Rieko Ioane [Blues]

Something just wasn't quite right with Ioane in 2019, though perhaps after the way he burst onto the scene in 2017 he was due for a slight dip in form. The opening seven rounds of Super Rugby told a different story thankfully, the Blues' outside back seemingly back to his best as he scored four tries, two further assists, and added nine line breaks and 18 tackle busts for good measure.

6. TJ Perenara [Hurricanes]

The Hurricanes scrum-half has been the benchmark No. 9 in Super Rugby for the past five years, even if he hasn't been able to shake Aaron Smith from the All Blacks starting role. Perenara often plays as a ninth forward for the Canes, his ability to get on the ball at the breakdown unrivalled in Super Rugby. So too is his inside support lines which often see him finishing off long-range five-pointers. He has also grown into an inspiring leader.

5. Jack Goodhue [Crusaders]

Arguably the best offloader in the game, Goodhue has become one of the Crusaders' most important players. His ability to straighten up the attack, or beat his man on the outside, saw the Crusaders score some scintillating tries during their three-peat. He was one of the All Blacks' best throughout 2019, and again looms large in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

4. Damian McKenzie [Chiefs]

Season-ending knee injuries are never easy to cop, let alone when they strike in a World Cup year. But McKenzie has put that disappointment behind him, making an impressive return to the field earlier this year. Warren Gatland has also shifted McKenzie back to fullback, a position that seems more suited to his particular skill-set.

3. Richie Mo'unga [Crusaders]

The All Blacks had the best player in the world at the start of last year -- Beauden Barrett -- but such was Mo'unga's form as part of the Crusaders' third straight title triumph that it the New Zealand coaches overhauled their structures to accommodate the Crusaders No. 10. That decision continues to divide opinions around the globe, but there is no doubting Mo'unga's attacking quality and ability to break a game open.

2. Ardie Savea [Hurricanes]

Another player who forced an All Blacks rethink in 2019, Savea's form had made it impossible for the selectors to leave him out of their starting back-row. There is not a player in the game who makes more metres after contact; Savea's leg drive pinching his side those extra few metres that can be the difference between static ball or a quick recycle. An 80-minute player, Savea's intensity never dips from the opening whistle to the last.

1. Beauden Barrett [Blues]

At last count, 35,000 tickets had been sold for Sunday's match between the Blues and Hurricanes. If you were to take a poll as to reasons why so many are heading out on Sunday, "watching Beaudy's first game in blue" would be the dominant answer. A post-World Cup holiday, and then the COVID-19 pandemic, means Barrett's debut is now even more eagerly-anticipated than it was going to be already. Thankfully the All Blacks star seldom fails to rise to the occasion; he will prove a sensation at Eden Park over the next 10 weeks.