NZ Rugby World
PLAYERS WE THINK WILL LIGHT UP THE COMPETITION
1 : STEPHEN PEROFETA[BLUES]
It feels like we have been waiting and waiting for this young man to show us what he is all about and this may be the year it happens.
He’s had a cruel, cruel run with injuries which have prevented him from developing. In the short bouts he has been fit, there has been promise.
He can run from deep as well as any player in the world. He has a step that fools defences and a great change of pace. He’s good under the high ball and can kick and so he seems destined to advance his cause as a fullback who can cover 10.
But he has to stay fit and stay on the park.
2 : SEAN WAINUI [CHIEFS]
We reckon this guy is one of the most under rated players in Super Rugby. He’s built like a tank, throws himself into contact and rarely makes a mistake.
He tackles well, has a lot of good touches and works tirelessly off the ball. Plenty of other wings with similar skill-sets have gone further and we hope that this season his accurate, powerful rugby receives the accolades it deserves.
3 : NGANI LAUMAPE [HURRICANES]
There is still some uncertainty whether Nagni Laumape has the goods to be a consistent test footballer. But beyond doubt is his value in Super Rugby where he is a one-man wrecking ball.
He is the most destructive direct runner in New Zealand and plenty of defenders have been bowled over by him when he runs right at them.
That makes for high stakes entertainment but as Laumape showed last year, there’s more to his game than power.
He can step and he’s got acceleration… just ask Beauden Barrett.
4 : GEORGE BRIDGE [CRUSADERS]
There are bigger, faster, more explosive than George Bridge but they don’t bring the all round game he does and don’t have the same range of weaponry to break a defence.
And this is what makes Bridge such a joy to watch – he’s the sort of player who leaves defences guessing as to what is coming next. He can chip and chase, take cross kicks, beat defenders on the outside or sometimes even just run over them. Life is never dull with George around.
5 : MITCH HUNT [HIGHLANDERS]
There’s more to Mitch Hunt than most people realise. He’s tough and he’s clever. He’s also quick and brave under the high ball and as he was showing last year, he’s not afraid to run at defenders and force them to commit.
He’s a player who makes things happen when it doesn’t seem like there is much in the way of opportunity and under Tony Brown’s coaching, Hunt is the sort of player who could reach new levels.
3 : VAEA FIFITA [HURRICANES]
Who remembers the try this guy scored for the All Blacks in 2017? It was a spectacular moment that alluded to Vaea Fifita being something special.
But it was a flash in the pan. We haven’t seen much from him since and from being a regular squad All Black he’s regressed to the fringes of the Hurricanes squad.
Feels like this is the year he needs to reassert himself or he can start thinking about heading overseas.
4 : SEVU REECE [CRUSADERS]
Sevu Reece has fast feet and a touch of the unpredictable about him. He was amazing in 2019 but not so in 2020 and the All Blacks cooled on him.
The window for these fleet footed wings to impress is usually surprisingly small and with competition for places fierce in the Crusaders back three, Reece is under pressure to hold his place and restore the faith that he’s got what it takes to once again be an incredible attacking force.
5 : LIAM COLTMAN [HIGHLANDERS]
So full disclosure – we have to remind everyone that we backed Liam Coltman to be the All Blacks top hooker by 2023. And we don’t want to look silly for doing that.
But he fell a long way last year, losing his starting spot at the Highlanders to Ash Dixon and then being overlooked by the All Blacks for Asafo Aumua.
Coltman simply didn’t provide any reason to be picked and that has to change this year or he’ll most likely never climb the pecking order.