Plenty of the country's top players have taken their opportunities in the National Provincial Competition and gone on to bigger things. Christopher Reive highlights four players who look well poised to follow a similar path.
Like many talented young players, there was no guarantee Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens ended up in rugby. During his school years at Francis Douglas Memorial College, he was scouted by a number of NRL clubs and spent time in Parramatta Eels academy camps. However, he was snapped up by the New Zealand Sevens system, linking up with the All Blacks Sevens immediately after finishing up at high school in late 2019. A talented outside back, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens has been listed in the Taranaki squad as a winger, but could cover at fullback at a pinch. He's fast, has good hands and has ability as a playmaker. Named on the wing for Taranaki's first game of the season, he's set to turn plenty of heads.
Halfback, Hawke's Bay
Fakatava is a raw talent, but an immense one. Fleet-footed, with good vision, a good passing game and a strong tackler, Fakatava has all the tools to lead the next crop of New Zealand halfbacks. A ball-running half, one of his best assets is taking on the line and putting teammates through holes in the defence. Signed with the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa, he has been able to learn from the country's top halfback in Aaron Smith, while in the black and white hoops of Hawke's Bay he can study Brad Weber. Should Weber be whisked away on All Blacks duties this season, Fakatava will get his chance to shine.
Second five-eighth, Canterbury
After converting from first five-eighth to second-five, Poihipi has the talent to provide a point of difference in the midfield for Canterbury. He's got the skills needed to play at No 10, which means he can become a secondary playmaking option and someone who can be called upon if pressure is applied. With speed, agility and a powerful boot, he can cause problems for defences, while he holds his own on the defensive side of the ball. He got the start at No 12 in week one, and scored in Canterbury's win over North Harbour.
Not long removed from starring at Napier Boys' High School, Thompson could be well positioned to make his mark at the provincial level in 2020 as he looks to benefit from Dane Coles and Asafo Aumua being selected in the All Blacks squad. Thompson spent time training with the Hurricanes at the start of 2020 and has spent time in the Wellington academy over the past couple of years, impressing with his talent and determination to get better. Well versed in the fundamentals of the No 2 jersey, he's got the size and skill to cause damage on attack, is confident as a ball runner and looks poised for a breakout campaign.