By: Nigel Yalden | Saturday, July 21, 2012 9:00 AM
The 2012 Super Rugby regular season has provided many memorable moments.
We have seen the emergence of exciting young talent, the enhancement of already stellar reputations and we have marvelled at the further increase in skill, speed and intensity of the game.
But more than anything else this year, it was the return to prominence of facial hair that gave us the biggest reason to smile.
Having suffered behind five o’clock shadows in recent years, Super Rugby players allowed facial forestation to run wild in rugby stadiums across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
It is with this follicle unshackling in mind that we announce the inaugural Facial Hair XV, honouring those who played major roles in re-establishing facial hair as both a fashion statement and an art of form.
Your 2012 Facial Hair XV is:
1. Tony Woodcock (Blues) – Despite immense pressure from the style of Beast Mtawarira and the volume of Jamie Mackintosh fuller beard’s, Woodcock’s business like goatee, always well-trimmed and well-shaped, was impossible to go past.
2. Tatafu Polata-Nau (Waratahs) – Excellent volume and shape which complimented his hairstyles, starting the afro which would later morph into cornrows come seasons end.
3. Charlie Faumuina (Blues) – a big man with a big beard is a big must have and big Charlie fits the bill big time.
4. Jason Eaton (Hurricanes) – Moves are afoot to have Eaton’s beard declared a national park and I strongly urge all rugby fans to sign the petition when the bloke with the clipboard knocks on your door in the coming weeks.
5. Toby Lynn (Rebels) – Another long time devotee of facial hair, Lynn’s extra length gets him the berth ahead of the Brumbies Scott Fardy, who will provide cover – and excellent coverage it is too – off the bench.
6. Faifili Levave (Hurricanes) – the talented blindside combined a Devonshire Throat with a Mohawk. That is not something just anyone can pull off, but Laveve did so effortlessly.
7. Jacques Potgieter (Bulls) – Every facial hair fifteen needs a musketeer look alike and with the retirement of regular D'Artagnan stunt double Victor Matfield, Potgieter was a clear choice to succeed his former Bulls team mate, given the combination of flowing locks and well-manicured jaw lawn.
8. Josh Strauss (Lions) – While his decision to lose the epic beard for the closing rounds of the competition sparked fierce debate around the selection table, you cannot deny that playing number eight whilst having a bird sanctuary attached to your face for the majority of the season is some feat. That’s captaincy material and is rewarded as such.
9. Nick White (Brumbies) – rocking a full beard is something rarely associated with a little man, but White coverage and depth was the best by someone under 1.75 metres in height since Warriors hooker Ian Henderson’s effort to end the 2010 NRL season.
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) – history shows that first fives have to be clean cut, boy next door types. However Cruden’s willingness to give the razor blade a holiday for a month at a time shows the potential is there. Look for a breakout beard in 2013.
11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders) –Amongst the raft of slim David Niven type moustaches favoured by outside backs, Guildford’s Colonel Custer stood out like a bunch Indians coming over the hill. Wonderful appreciation of a classic from such a young man is another excellent sign for the future.
12. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) – Started the competition sporting an outstanding Triple S - Senior Sergeants Slug. Not since the heady days of Graham Mourie, John Ashworth and Murray Mexted have we seen such commitment to the single strip on the top lip.
13. Robbie Freuen (Crusaders) – A thin, lineal styled beard is a very hard thing to maintain over the course of a near six month long campaign, but Fruean has achieved, all the while rolling with the Mohawk ‘do up top.
14. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) – a sleek and effective goatee for a sleek and effective wing three quarter
15. Andre Taylor – whilst it was a bit patchy by comparison to team mate Faifili Levave, Taylor’s efforts in on the Devonshire throat front did not go unnoticed
Coach: Todd Blackadder (Crusaders) – just as every team must have a musketeer, so too must it have a “Silver Fox” and Blackadder’s full beard sees him shimmer into a role that one boldly suggests he was born to occupy.
** As published in the Waikato Times on Saturday 21 July 2012 **Photo: Jason Eaton (Photosport)