From Super Rugby to the black jersey?
Thursday, May 10, 2018 Andy Burt Getty Images
Although the final call on the 33-man squad is down to Steve Hansen and his selection group, it’s fun to speculate and put yourself in the selectors’ shoes.
It’s likely there will be a few new All Blacks named when the squad is read out on Sunday May 20. With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at the form of each New Zealand Super Rugby side and selected one potential new cap from each team.
Crusaders: Jordan Taufua
The drums have been beating for a Jordan Taufua All Blacks call-up for a couple of seasons now, and with a number of injuries and departures in the All Blacks loose forward ranks, the time may have come for Taufua. In the absence of an injured Kieran Read at the Crusaders, Taufua has been a standout this season. His trademark ball-carrying and work-rate around the park has helped the defending champions to the top of the New Zealand Conference after 12 rounds. Taufua’s name will surely be in the mix but a question mark may come around his lineout ability and whether a younger candidate maybe a more suitable option for the future.
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Chiefs: Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
If there was ever a position for someone to press for a spot in the All Blacks this year it is halfback. With the departure of Tawera Kerr-Barlow to France, the door has opened for someone to join Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara as the All Blacks preferred halfback options. In a similar mould to Aaron Smith, Tahuriorangi is a live-wire with a slick pass and high-tempo style of play. He’s edged one-Test All Black Brad Weber as the regular starter for the Chiefs this year and was invited to the All Blacks North Island foundation day to show he is firmly on the radar. With Mitchell Drummond and Augustine Pulu also pushing hard for a spot, the next couple of weeks will prove crucial to Tahuriorangi’s chances.
No player has been talked up as an All Blacks bolter this season more than Ben Lam – and with good reason. Lam has simply set Super Rugby alight with 12 tries from just nine matches played. With ball in hand, Lam has been unstoppable, scoring tries out of nowhere with his blistering pace, power running and quality finishing. It’s the type of x-factor quality that doesn’t escape the attention of the All Blacks selectors easily. But with a ton of talent vying for the 11 and 14 jerseys, the question is who do the All Blacks leave out if Lam is to be selected?
Rob Thompson has become the Highlanders Mr Dependable this season. Averaging over 75 minutes game time per-match, Thompson is a crucial cog in the Highlanders engine. Defensively, Thompson is one of the key organisers in the side and routinely shuts down his opposite number with unrelenting line speed. Thompson’s distribution skills are top class and he offers plenty with ball in hand with 32 defenders beaten and 11 clean breaks after the first 12 rounds of Super Rugby. The 26-year-old midfielder has not put a foot wrong in 2017 and joins a broad list of contenders for the All Blacks midfield for the Steinlager Series.
Blues: Stephen Perofeta
With Perofeta it is probably a matter of when, not if, the talented pivot makes the step up into a black jersey. The crafty playmaker first came to prominence last year when leading the Blues to a superb victory over the touring British and Irish Lions when aged just 20. In a tough season for the Blues so far, Perofeta has impressed since overcoming an early season injury. Perofeta is a ball-playing first five-eighth in the mould of Carlos Spencer or Orene Ai’I but also offers an astute tactical boot and reliable goal-kicking. At this stage, Perofeta’s route into the All Blacks may only come if there are injuries to the incumbents.
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