Super Rugby: Joe Roff's try-scoring record may soon be broken

It's a record that has stood for more than 20 years, yet Joe Roff's Super Rugby try-scoring mark is in serious danger as the competition reaches its final weeks.

Roff's effort of 15 five-pointers has twice been equalled since he starred for a Brumbies side that made it all the way to the 1997 decider, with Rico Gear (2005) and Ngani Laumape (2017) also reaching the mark.

But with Taqele Naiyaravoro and Ben Lam already having hit the magic number, and George Bridge only one try further back, the record could go as early as this weekend when the Crusaders host the Hurricanes and Waratahs face the Lions.

The race to break Roff's original mark adds an extra attacking dimension to this weekend's semifinals, which already have the four leading try-scoring teams facing off against one another.

The standout outside back from the opening half of the competition, Lam has endured a similar season script to his Hurricanes team. The former Blues winger was touted as an All Blacks bolter for the June series with France after he crossed for eight tries in five games, highlighted by a four-try spree against the Rebels.

By the time the June series - for which he missed selection - had arrived, Lam had 14 five-pointers to his name and appeared to be cruising towards a new try-scoring mark all on his own. But after the Canes suffered back-to-back losses either side of the Test interval, Lam was relegated to the bench by coach Chris Boyd.

It proved to be a shrewd coaching move as Lam was recalled a week later, the winger reaching the 15-try mark in the one-point loss to the Chiefs.

His New Zealand counterpart at the Crusaders, Bridge has found himself a home on the end of a backline that leads the competition for tries scored (82).

The 23-year-old Gisborne native signalled his try-scoring threat last season with eight tries in as many appearances; his form too good to ignore in 2018 with coach Scott Robertson retaining Bridge on the wing in recent weeks despite the availability of All Blacks star Israel Dagg and Fijian Manasa Mataele.

Just like Lam, Bridge is a multi-try threat. Just two weeks ago at home to the Blues, the Crusaders winger ran in a hat trick to bring his season total to 14.

The final member of this year's dominant try-scoring trio, Naiyaravoro certainly has his detractors in defence but there is little doubting his ability to finish under pressure.

The one-Test Wallabies winger will head north later this year for a second stint in European rugby, this time with Northampton, leaving a giant hole, literally, the Waratahs will need to fill ahead of next season.

Naiyaravoro broke Israel Folau's try-scoring record at the Waratahs when he ran in a double against the Sunwolves, but has gone tryless in the past two weeks against the Brumbies and Highlanders.

He'll be hoping for a much better outing against the Lions in Saturday night's semifinal after the entire Waratahs team failed to register a point in a 29-0 loss to the South Africans in Sydney earlier this year.

Coincidentally, all three players have spent the majority of their time on the left wing this season, just as Roff did in 1997. Gear was predominantly a right winger while Laumape did his damage through the midfield last year, and recently equalled the record for most tries in a Super Rugby match (4) against the Blues in Round 18.

However, the 15-try seasons of Roff and Gear came in the days of Super 12 where a maximum of 13 games could be played by the teams reaching the final. In the Super Rugby era of 2017/18, a team who reaches the final will play 19 games; Laumape (17 in 2017) Lam (17), Naiyaravoro (15) and Bridge (16) have already played more matches than the 13 possible in Super 12 times.

So while a new mark of 16, or more, Super Rugby tries may be set over the next fortnight, Roff's original record, later equalled by Gear, should not be forgotten either.