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Power rankings: Our top five southern hemisphere locks

Power rankings: Our top five southern hemisphere locks

Eben Etzebeth Player of the Series locks

Most teams have imposing towers of strength in their second row, but only a select few can boast locks who can single-handedly drag a team up to their level.

The perfect lock needs to excel in their set-piece responsibilities, both at the lineout and the scrum.

But they also need to bring limitless aggression, a powerful carrying ability and an unfailing engine to zip from breakdown to breakdown.

Here are our five picks for the five best locks the Southern Hemisphere has to offer.

1. Eben Etzebeth

This World Cup winner ticks all the boxes and made an immediate impression on his debut for Cell C Sharks.
After doing his best impression of a heavy-duty bulldozer on international duty in the Rugby Championship, Eben Etzebeth finally made his URC bow against Glasgow Warriors in mid-October.
Etzebeth scooped the Player of the Match gong in a comfortable 40-12 win to underline his status among the top locks on the planet.
New head coach Sean Everitt pronounced him one of the best players in the world for the way he slotted in seamlessly to dominate the scrum, lineout and anyone unfortunate to be tackled by the giant.
The Springbok is in the prime of his career and it takes a very brave defender to stop the rampaging forward.

2. Sam Whitelock

Sam Whitelock has been one of New Zealand’s most consistent performers over the last decade and was rewarded with the temporary captaincy for the conclusion of the Rugby Championship.

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That title-winning 40-14 win over trans-Tasman rivals Australia was Whitelock’s 34th Bledisloe Cup appearance, and one where he crossed for his seventh try in 140 caps.

Only Richie McCaw can better Whitelock’s Bledisloe Cup record and no duo can compete with his remarkable partnership with Brodie Retallick.

The pair have now started 63 Test matches together in the second row – a world record.

And Whitelock now has McCaw’s all-time New Zealand appearance record in his sights.

3. Will Skelton

With Darcy Swain left out after his suspension, Will Skelton is racing full-pelt to replace the 25-year-old in this year’s Autumn Nations Series.

While it might seem premature to include a player who has not played any international rugby this year, and last started a Test back in 2015.

But such has been Skelton’s form at club level, first for Saracens and more recently for La Rochelle, that it is fair to assume that he will be able to carry that into the Test arena.

If you want to know how good he is, just ask Leinster. Skelton has been part of the team that beat them in the 2019 and 2022 Champions Cup finals, as well as the semi-final in 2021. And in last year’s final in Marseille, his ability to dominate the Leinster pack physically, despite coming into the game with almost no rugby in his legs, was the deciding factor in La Rochelle’s upset win.

Dave Rennie will be hoping for more of the same on Australia’s gruelling Autumn Nations Series schedule.

4. Tomas Lavanini

Infamous for being a perpetual yellow card risk, Tomas Lavanini might have turned over a new leaf in this year’s Rugby Championship.

The Clermont lock retained his usual physicality throughout his six starts for Los Pumas, but tempered it with a measure of control.


It took a mammoth defensive effort to repel the All Blacks at the end of August and Lavanini was central to the historic win.

Over the whole campaign, Lavanini made 66 tackles and 44 carries to boost Michael Cheika’s side to just one point behind the Wallabies in the final table.

5. Brodie Retallick

Brodie Retallick has not had the most straightforward of calendar years, suffering a broken thumb and cheekbone in March and July respectively.

But the 31-year-old is made of strong stuff and returned to start New Zealand’s pair of Bledisloe Cup triumphs.

His return to fitness coincided with the All Blacks’ best performance of the Rugby Championship in the decisive showdown at Eden Park.

Ian Foster will desperately need his two locks to be on top form when they take on Japan, Wales, Scotland and England.

Honourable mentions

Etzebeth’s partner Lood de Jager is unfortunate to miss out after posting impressive tackle and lineout statistics, while Argentina’s Matias Alemanno deserves a mention too. Rory Arnold impressed for Dave Rennie, but won’t feature internationally in the autumn because of Japanese club duties. Samoa’s Theo McFarland is a stunning rugby player and if it were not for his prowess at blindside, would easily make this list.

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