On the bac' />
Not much more than a year ago Sosene Anesi was a prime example of the worst excesses of Graham Henry's bloated All Black squad policy.
On the back of a decent 2005 Super 14 campaign for the Chiefs he was selected against Fiji before being dropped in one-test wonderland.
Whenever the cheapening of the jersey is raised, Anesi's name is usually somewhere in the mix. Nobody doubted the 25-year-old could play, but he was hardly All Black material.
Well here's a newsflash: Anesi, who didn't get anywhere near an All Black jersey in 2006 and probably won't in 2007 either, is twice the player he was when his name was plucked out of the hat by Henry.
Style has made way for substance. Anesi might not be as flashy as he was when he played his first match for the Mooloo, but 45 games later he is a ruthlessly efficient winger still capable of bursts of brilliance.
He might not have the freakish ability of Sitiveni Sivivatu, the linebreaking skills of Ma'a Nonu or the flowing locks of Cory Jane, but he has arguably been the most consistent winger this season.
He was shaded by his opposite on the night by virtue of Nonu's two tries, the second a spectacular effort in a lost cause, but coach Warren Gatland will have no complaints about Anesi's contribution during Waikato's first title since 1992.
His best moment came midway through the first half when he ran to appear on David Hill's left shoulder. A pop pass still left Anesi with plenty to do, too much in fact, but if composure is half the test, his pass off the ground to Richard Kahui saw him pass with flying colours.
As he also did last week when he was close to being the best on field against Otago in Waikato's crushing semifinal victory.
The Air New Zealand Cup hasn't always been a great advertisement for rugby. Even last night's febrile atmosphere can't erase the memories of a competition that spluttered into action only once the knockout rounds had begun.
But for Anesi at least, it's been a brilliant stage for redemption.