It may be premature to say that Matt Proctor has entered the frame for the All Blacks selection.
But the 24-year-old Hurricanes and Maori All Blacks centre is presenting a strong case for being one of the biggest improvers on the New Zealand Super Rugby stage.
Against the Reds on Saturday night, Proctor showed his cutting edge on attack, running for 103m, his best in 2017, beating seven defenders and making three breaks. He is forming a potent midfield combination with the resurgent Ngani Laumape. Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu complemented each other so well two years ago for the Hurricanes, and now Proctor and Laumape are similarly effective
Yet Proctor is not one to hog the headlines in a star-studded Hurricanes backline cast. He played 12 games for the Hurricanes in 2016, and looked solid more than cutting edge.
Now he has lifted his output, and has missed just three of 42 tackles, making him the most accurate defender of the front-line New Zealand centres this season.
"Matt doesn't get the plaudits he deserves, to be honest. He's been unbelievable for us.
You might see him carrying the ball really well, but some of the stuff he's doing off the ball, and working back and making tackles, he's been really special for us and a massive part of what we are doing," says Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland.
"Matty just wants to do whatever he can at the moment. He just has to keep performing and doing the right things for the Hurricanes and things might happen for him from there."
Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa has missed five of 37 tackles, but many he has made have been dominant. Not for nothing does his coach Tony Brown feel he is the best defensive centre in New Zealand. Furthermore, there were signs last Friday against the Rebels that he is rediscovering his attacking thrust after an inconsistent start to the campaign. Fekitoa made three breaks and scored two tries. Write him off for the Lions series at your peril.
Anton Lienert-Brown of the Chiefs is a strong defender and, like Fekitoa and the Blues' Rieko Ioane, has missed just five tackles all season. Lienert-Brown is in fact the All Blacks' No 13 incumbent. Ioane is the most potent attacker, 50 carries for 352 metres and four tries but appeals as a wing option at international level at this stage.
The other prospective centre, George Moala, has not played enough at No 13 to be fully judged, but he could certainly operate effectively outside Sonny Bill Williams, when the second five makes his long-awaited return.
*Hurricanes and All Blacks fans can relax. Beauden Barrett relinquished the goalkicking duties last Saturday night in Brisbane due to a niggly rib. There was no crisis of confidence or groin flare-up. Jordie Barrett was the obvious replacement and slotted four from six. So one way or another, a member of the Barrett family will be kicking the goals against the Waratahs this Friday in the capital.