When the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters met in 2013 there were key match ups all over the park to decide the game, but all anyone seemed to care about was the coming together of two of the NRL’s greatest players in Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess.
They both had their moments in those match ups as well. Sam Burgess welcoming SBW back to the NRL in Round 1 by running over him as if he was a scrawny halfback from the SG Ball. Sonny got revenge when he cruised through South’s defense and put Mitchell Pearce away to score the sealing try when the sides met in the Round 26 blockbuster.
All eyes will be on them once again when they clash in 2014 and expect their clashes to only get better.
Sonny Bill Williams was born to entertain, he’s a constant point of discussion no matter which sports are involved and it’s easy to see why. He’s almost the prototype for a modern athlete with his talent, athleticism and attitude, as illustrated by his ability to go from sport to sport so effortlessly. He is unparalleled as the most complete forward in the NRL and is a genuine big game player. His bag of skills is like few others in the NRL.
But does he have any weaknesses? It’s easy for your mind to remember a brilliant pass or try but not quite as easy to remember to when doesn’t make an impact, such as the game against Melbourne in Round 11. All the pressure was on the Roosters halves in the lead up to Origin but when the Roosters trailed, the game was crying out for a hero and SBW was hardly sighted. SBW’s work rate being slightly below the average of the NRL’s best forwards is more than excusable with his attacking prowess, but in games where he brings neither to the table you have to question his impact. There are other occasions where he can be dominating a game and then go missing for long periods but all people want to focus is when he was on top.
While many got swept up in the hype of SBW there were those who maintained the stance that Sam Burgess was the better player and it’s certainly a viable argument. There are many work horses in the NRL but what sets Sam Burgess apart is the 80 minutes of full-on intensity he brings. His take no prisoner’s attitude has given him a reputation as one NRL’s real tough men and it was no surprise that his peers voted him the hardest hitter.
What are Burgess’s weaknesses? The big one is discipline, whether it was a high tackle or a squirrel grip Burgess found himself off the field for various indiscretions in 2013 and it’s certainly an aspect of his game he needs to clean up. He is also error prone, his hands certainly aren’t the best and 27 errors in the 2013 regular season are certainly unenviable. Especially when you add 15 penalties conceded to the conversation. It’s hard to be overly disciplined when you are constantly going at 100% but cleaning up the dirtier side of his game and working on holding onto the ball can take his game to the next level.
Both are truly great players and it’s hard to split them. 2014 may well bring a new twist in their rivalry but for now Sonny Bill Williams remains the more complete and better player, but only just.