The forgotten man of New Zealand rugby is showing early signs that he might be just the player Ian Foster needs in 2021, writes Gregor Paul.
Strangely, the most encouraging individual performance of the weekend came out of the worst team effort.
Chiefs No 8 Luke Jacobson, after missing most of last year with endless injuries, provided sporadic reminders against the Highlanders why he was picked in the All Blacks 2019 World Cup squad ahead of a host of other better known players.
There's a brutishness about Jacobson, a genuine desire and ability to dominate collisions and for 40 minutes in Hamilton, he was the most compelling player on the park.
He was direct, confrontational and if the game hadn't dramatically turned just before the break, Jacobson looked set to provide a powerful statement that he's back and ready to make a big push into the test arena.
And he's the sort of player All Blacks coach Ian Foster wants. The sort of player the All Blacks need because the first two weeks of Super Rugby Aotearoa have shown that the game is more than ever all about being able to go straight and hard over the advantage line.
When the Chiefs were in control against the Highlanders for the first 30 minutes on Friday night, it was because they sent wave after wave of power runners past the gainline.
When they hit the ball hard and punched holes in the defence they were in charge. It was the same with the Crusaders.
There was a 10-minute period in the first half when Ardie Savea was in the sin-bin and the Crusaders scored three tries.
There was nothing fancy in the way they broke the Hurricanes – hard men, running direct lines and taking the collision on their terms to set a quick recycle.
Maybe that's how rugby's always been, but it feels on the evidence of the two rounds so far, that it's a game now where teams can't be thinking about trying to go wide first, forward second.
It's too easy for teams to push their umbrella defences fast and wide and close the space available in the wider channels.
To succeed in the current climate, everyone has to smash and bash first and this is why someone such as Jacobson is of particular interest.
He can play that style of rugby and yet he comes with exceptional pace, acceleration and a nice range of soft skills.
He's the sort of hybrid the All Blacks need – someone who can be a monster when there's no space, but not a cyclops when there is.
Clearly, the All Blacks saw something in him in 2019. They liked the way he was high energy and high impact – and then, poof, he disappeared in a puff of smoke when the injuries just kept coming.
He is the forgotten man of New Zealand rugby as a result – having dropped down the pecking order hard and fast behind last year's new recruits Hoskins Sotutu, Akira Ioane and Cullen Grace.
This year might be the one for him to bounce back and possibly also reinvent himself.
When he was involved with the All Blacks in 2019 it was as a blindside, but No 8 could become his natural home, particularly as there isn't a player quite like him in the country.
Savea will, while he remains in New Zealand, always be an option at No 8. It is not his natural position, but he's such a freakish talent he can bring plenty to the role.
In terms of specialists, Sotutu emerged in 2020, impressing with his athleticism and ability to use the ball in space. He's got something that can be utilised in test football, but we haven't seen him play yet against the Springboks or any of the heavyweight Six Nations packs.
They bring a different challenge – demand different things of a No 8 and if the contest is slower, more physical and confrontational, Jacobson feels like he would be better suited to rugby of that nature.
He's got that edge about his game that Kieran Read had: that same ability to hurt ball carriers by hitting them in their soft spots with his hard bits.
Sotutu can be brilliant and creative, but he doesn't appear to have the same crunch as Jacobson and with 15 tests scheduled this year, it's probable Foster is going to carry an extended squad for most of the season and have the luxury of being able to mix and match his loose forward options to suit the opposition.
And Jacobson feels like he's most certainly going to be one of those options again.