The top 20 nicknames for active players in rugby union including Aaron Smith and Steven Kitshoff

Dylan Coetzee
The top 20 nicknames for active players in rugby union including Aaron Smith and Steven Kitshoff

Rugby union is a team sport in every sense of the term. It is based on togetherness, camaraderie and, inevitably, a bit of banter.

Nicknames are part and parcel of the game, with some absolute gems surfacing over the years.

Planet Rugby ranks our top 20 nicknames of active players with some fascinating insights into the players themselves through the names they are called.

Top 20 nicknames in rugby union

20 Jonathan Davies – Fox

The Test centurion’s parents own a pub in Bancyfelin, Wales, named Fox & Hounds, meaning it was only a matter of time before the great centre was dubbed ‘Fox’. Fairly astute, as the centre has shown his sly and cunning side on attack for several years now in a glittering career.

19 Liam Williams – Sanjay

An absolute classic and one that is well-known by the public. It all started on a family holiday in Greece as a young child when his parents got a kick out of calling him Sanjay Kapoor from Eastenders. Needless to say, that nickname stuck like a fly on a spider’s web.

18 Finlay Christie – Red

An obvious one. Red for the colour of the All Blacks scrum-half. Short and sharp, just like his stature. One of several New Zealanders to make the list. An excellent player with a cheeky nickname to match.

17 Franco Mostert – Sous

A brilliant play on words for the tireless forward’s nickname. Sous translates from Afrikaans to sauce which is a spinoff of Mostert sounding like Mustard. Alternatively, Mostert is known by the isiXhosa commentators as Universal Soldier because of his work rate and durability.

16 Finn Russell – White chocolate

A former team-mate of the Scot, Simon Zebo, explained that Russell resembled an NBA player called Jason Williams whose fans called him ‘White Chocolate’. However, it is not only appearance based as Williams was known for his skill and flair whilst playing for Miami Heat, much like Russell whenever he has ball in hand.

15 Elliot Daly – Briefcase

A lovely one for him to share with his kids. Daly earned the nickname after arriving at his first training session with Wasps still in his Whitgift school uniform and holding a briefcase. Shows how young the star started at one of the highest levels of the game. What a player he is.

14 Kwagga Smith – Wrong Turn

Probably the most brutal nickname of the lot. Smith, dubbed by the IsiXhosa commentators as his nose that surely has been broken once or twice, resembles the nose of a character from the horror movie ‘Wrong Turn’. Brutally brilliant.

13 Kurt-Lee Arendse – Finish and KLAar

One of the hottest players in the world at the moment and well deserved the nickname. Arendse has scored seven tries in his first seven Tests, including scoring in an impressive six consecutive matches. Flick on his try against England and how he turned Marcus Smith inside out and nickname ‘Finish’ is clear as day.

12 Seabelo Senatla – Vrr Pha

Coined by isiXhosa commentators because of the former Blitzbok’s sheer and alarming pace. Senatla is a try-scoring machine, and if you have not heard the commentators scream their lungs out when the ball is in hand, then you have not lived.

11 Marco van Staden – Eskom

Named after South Africa’s electricity provider, Van Staden will knock your lights out. But, of course, any South African will know that Eskom does that on a regular making for a brilliant nickname for the Springbok that supporters and pundits have widely adopted.

10 Aaron Smith – Nugget

One earned in the early days of his career playing for Manawatu. Whilst there is no clear indication as to why the veteran was called ‘Nugget’, one can only assume it is because of his sheer quality, essentially as a nugget of gold. The name has stuck as Smith’s career shot through the roof to now being regarded as one of the best scrum-halves the game has seen.

9 Ken Owens – The Sheriff

The origin of the nickname for the Welshman is excellent and is a tribute to Owens’ grandfather, who was the mayor of Carmarthen and council chairman. For one reason or another, it really suits the hooker who has been playing at the highest level for quite some time.

8 Tadhg Furlong – Rikishi

Coined by former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt after the Irishman’s belly kept showing from under his shirt and humorously likened to a WWE wrestler ‘Rikishi’. A nickname like this will always be snapped and made sure to stick by teammates looking to poke the bear.

7 Vincent Koch – Mr Incredible

The resemblance is uncanny. Koch looks almost identical to the fictional character Mr Incredible, so much so that the nickname was inevitable. The Springbok looks to have embraced the tag from the popular movie and if one looks at how he plays, the name is even more apt.

6 Willem Alberts – The bone collector

Famed for his massive hits, Alberts earned the nickname of Bone Collector years ago. The Lions man is gargantuan and certainly a player you would hate to be in your channel. However, the name does not come from nowhere, as Alberts has been taking names for years.

5 Frans Malherbe – Buffel

The Afrikaans name translates to buffalo, and anyone who has seen the great Springbok at scrum time will immediately agree. Malherbe is one of the best tightheads in the world and has been for an extended period. One of the big five, certainly applicable to a man of his stature.

4 Maro Itoje – The Pearl

The nickname is derived from the value he brings to any side he plays for. A flattering name for a true superstar. Itoje has proved on several occasions that he is one of the greats of the modern era, and the Englishman will be looking to add more and more to his legacy.

3 Brodie Retallick – Guzzler

Another with no clear origin or reason as to how he earned the nickname. However, one could speculate it was based on the amount of fuel he needed to get through to power his outrageous work rate. Alternatively, it could also be based on how the Test centurion handles his beer. All we know is the ‘Guzzler’ is a remarkable second-row.

2 Dupont – Le Ministre de L’Interieur (The Minister of the Interior)

The translation speaks for itself. The former World Rugby Player of the Year is an absolute master from the base of the ruck, either managing his forwards or sniping and going himself. The Frenchman is a truly special player and is key to his side’s push for home World Cup glory next year.

1 Steven Kitshoff – Spicy Plum

Another one coined by the IsiXhosa commentators in South Africa. An absolutely brilliant nickname that is the most fitting and just hilarious. The red-haired Springbok star tops our list after having earned the nickname through his robust carrying and relentless hard work.

READ MORE: The Year in Numbers: Including Wayne Barnes’ record, France’s winning run and Rassie Erasmus’ suspensions