Super Rugby Aotearoa - Most Valuable Players: 20-11

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.

Weighing up established quality with some of the form players from the first seven rounds of Super Rugby earlier in the year, we've broken the list into two sections starting with 20-11 below.

20. Tom Christie [Crusaders]

The Crusaders flanker had proven a workhorse in defence across the first seven rounds of Super Rugby, making an average of 18.5 tackles per game which was three more than any other player in the competition. Christie had also forced five penalties around the breakdown, announcing himself as the latest star in the Crusaders' No. 7 factory.

19. Ben Lam [Hurricanes]

Super Rugby's all-time record holder for most tries in a season [16], Lam will be playing his final games in New Zealand - for now anyway - with the Hurricanes winger headed to France next season [pandemic-pending]. Lam had already run up five tries earlier this year; put him within 10 metres of the tryline, even in traffic, and he will return with five points more often than not.

18. Ngani Laumape [Hurricanes]

The Hurricanes centre was the hard-luck story when he was omitted from the All Blacks' World Cup squad. But he has a long Test career ahead and had made a fine start to Super Rugby with the Hurricanes. Laumape was putting together another strong array of attacking stats before the competition's suspension and will again present a huge threat for the Hurricanes in SR Aotearoa.

17. Braydon Ennor [Crusaders]

The owner of a new three-year deal with New Zealand Rugby, Ennor was another player who could have done little more to push his World Cup claims in 2019. Ennor has proven himself adept either in the midfield or on the wing as part of the Crusaders' stacked outside back stocks, but looks set to form a long-term centre partnership with Jack Goodhue.

16. Codie Taylor [Crusaders]

The All Blacks hooker has made the most of Dane Coles' misfortune, establishing himself as the All Blacks premier rake. With a game that mirrors Coles in many ways, Taylor gives energy around the paddock and also presides over the Crusaders' outstanding set-piece.

15. Hoskins Sotutu [Blues]

Another potentially unlikely inclusion, Sotutu's work in his debut Super Rugby season cannot be overlooked. Having debuted late last year, Sotutu has established himself as the Blues No. 8 this season - ahead of Akira Ioane no less - and proven a key part of the franchise's resurgence in the process. Sotutu led Super Rugby's No. 8s for average run metres, line breaks and tackles busts before the season came to a halt. The All Blacks beckon.

14. George Bridge [Crusaders]

The Crusaders outside back's form was too good to ignore last year, as he earned himself one of the All Blacks' hotly-contested outside backs spots and then displaced Rieko Ioane from the right wing. A quality finisher, who can also cover fullback, Bridge was again in devastating form for the Crusaders across the key attacking stats of run metres, tackle busts, offloads.

13. Lachlan Boshier [Chiefs]

The Chiefs have one of the game's great opensides, and new All Blacks captain, Sam Cane, on their books, but Boshier's presence gives Warren Gatland even more turnover potential. Boshier had forced 10 penalties - five more than any other player - before Super Rugby's suspension and a further three pilfers. They are the kind of stats that can change the momentum of a match, or create invaluable counter-attacking opportunities.

12. Aaron Smith [Highlanders]

The veteran All Blacks No. 9 faces arguably the biggest challenge of his outstanding career, inspiring a turnaround in the Highlanders after the team registered just the one win earlier this year. Thankfully his ability to create for others, particularly around the fringes, and constant support play remain as strong as ever, so too a kicking game that brings the Highlanders wingers into the contest in the air.

11. Anton Lienert-Brown [Chiefs]

The Chiefs' Mr Consistent, Lienert-Brown is as classy a midfielder as you could ever hope to have. A distributor and ball-carrier, the All Blacks second-five seems to have that extra fraction of time on his side no matter the amount of traffic he is in. Playing outside Aaron Cruden and with Damian McKenzie joining in from the back, the Chiefs have a quality attacking axis.