I thought this was a real interesting read, please move if its not in the right place though!5:00AM Friday April 18, 2008
By Steve Deane
Manu Vatuvei and Ma'a Nonu share plenty of similarities.
It's the ultimate pub debate: Ma'a Nonu or Manu Vatuvei?
It's a bit like a squabble over who would win a fight between a shark and a lion on the moon - pointless but fun.
The similarities between the two form strike players of their respective codes are plentiful: Powerhouses on whose shoulders games can often turn, Next Big Things whose careers hit turbulent times last season only to bounce back in style this year.
There's Nonu, the World Cup outcast considered good enough to play five tests against France (except the one that mattered) but not up to it for one against the Wallabies or Springboks. And there's Vatuvei, the hero of the Kiwis' 2005 Tri-Nations campaign who wished the ground would swallow him up when he spilled six kicks of decreasing difficulty against Parramatta last year. Nonu, whose two tries blew away the Bulls in Pretoria last week. Vatuvei, who put the bite on the Bulldogs at Mt Smart and who sits atop the NRL charts with six tries in four games this season.
Both have the ability to instil hope and dread in the hearts of supporters whenever the ball heads their way. Having one player of their ability in a team is essential. Two would be too many. Who's it gonna be: Ma'a or Manu?
All but unstoppable close to the line. Extremely hard to put over the sideline. Can hold off multiple tacklers and still get the ball down. Well capable of midfield line breaks but lacks the out-and-out pace to finish long-range efforts.
The best tackle-buster in his code. Has remarkable balance and agility to go with tremendous power. On his day, runs around or over opponents with equal effectiveness. Lacks raw pace.
Sound tackler who easily leaves the wing to deliver an attack-halting big hit. Rarely beaten on the outside but can get sucked in close to his own line.
Can get lost positionally when playing in midfield and struggles if isolated on the wing. Fond of the odd big hit but doesn't always nail his technique, resulting in penalties - or worse.
A 50/50 man under the defensive high ball - either he'll drop it and the opposition will score, or he'll drop it and they won't. Oddly, he doesn't suffer the same problem at the other end of the park, where his height makes him a real threat. Also known to drop on vital carries off his own line.
Loses far too much ball in contact. Some of that can be attributed to his high-collision approach, but not all. Handles kicks, both on the ground and in the air, well enough.
At 189cm and 112kg, Vatuvei is a genuine monster, right up there with the biggest outside backs in either code. Uses his frame well too, sucking the energy out of opponents with powerful hit-ups and smashing past tackles to score from close range.
Not as big as you'd think at 182cm - a shade under six foot - and 102kg. Pretty standard proportions for a midfielder - Stirling Mortlock is the same weight and 9cm taller - but plays well above his size.
If he has one, it is kept well hidden.
Has the ability to surprise with an occasionally successful chip-and-chase, but long kicking game is poor.
Tends to be up one week and down the next, but improving. Lately it's more up one minute and down the next.
Hasn't shown much ability to fix weaknesses but opponents haven't got any better at dealing with his strengths. Astonishing linebreaks and infuriating handling errors are the norm, usually in the same run.
A good judge of when the outside break is on and when to cut back inside. Reads attacking plays well, making him an effective kick chaser. Hesitant on defence near his own line.
Not a great judge of when to throw a pass and when to look after the ball. Can get lost on defence. Distribution is better than many credit him for.
Despite the Crowd Goes Wild promo showing him duking it out with Matt King, he is neither dirty nor malicious. Seldom penalised, let alone sin binned or sent off.
No stranger to 10-minute spells on the sideline, due mainly to recklessness or stupidity. Treads a fine line, with high and late tackles never far away. Gets pinged unfairly for legitimate tackles but can only blame himself for being a marked man with referees.
Two tries in 2005 Tri-Nations final victory over the Kangaroos while snuffing out dangerous opposite Matt King proved he can stand up well in the big games. Was badly missed by the Warriors when injured for last season's play-off defeats.
Has failed utterly to make an impression against arch foes Australia and South Africa, although not having played a single game against them hasn't helped. Had a quiet game against the Crusaders in the fog-bound 2006 Super 14 final, missing opposite Casey Laulala to concede the only try of the game.
Produces the odd miraculous finish from close range but not the most likely Warrior to pull something out of nothing when it was most needed.
If the Hurricanes are down by six with time running out, there's only one bloke whose hands they want to get the ball into. Can bust a game wide-open single-handedly.
Our completely unscientific and borderline-random report card gives the edge to Nonu by two points. The 10 categories were split five-five but Vatuvei was probably undone by his complete lack of a kicking game, while Nonu edged the crucial X-factor rating. If you disagree, get a pen and readjust the scores to suit yourself.
And I'd go for the lion over the shark, any day.