As the first round of Super Rugby Aotearoa draws nearer to completion, Christopher Reive shines a light on five players on track for future higher honours.
Will Jordan - Crusaders
If there was going to be a surprise inclusion in the backline for the All Blacks in 2019, many tipped Jordan to be the bolter. In Super Rugby Aotearoa, he's showing exactly why that was. Whether he's playing at fullback or on the wing, Jordan makes an impact. His speed and footwork make him a handful for defenders and he has the strength to be able to break tackles. Leading the competition in tries scored (4), clean breaks (9), defenders beaten (22) and metres carried (336), the 22-year-old looks set to find himself in a black jersey sooner rather than later.
Hoskins Sotutu - Blues
Sotutu's play hasn't just caught New Zealand's attention, but England's and Fiji's as well because, yes, he is eligible to represent any of the three countries. Providing a big presence at the back of the scrum for the Blues, Sotutu's ball running ability and high work rate have many excited about his future. Recently inking a two-year deal with New Zealand Rugby, all signs point to an All Blacks call up in the not too distant future.
Cullen Grace - Crusaders
Another player whose season has been impacted in injury in recent weeks, Grace is a talent to excite Kiwi rugby fans. Before being forced into surgery for a thumb injury, Grace was building his reputation as a physical workhorse in the back row. Constantly among the game's leading tacklers, if not leading the count outright, the 20-year-old's ability to cover lock only adds to the already impressive package.
Mark Telea - Blues
Both starting wings at the Blues are impressing with their respective opportunities, but since Caleb Clarke was highlighted after round one , it's Telea's turn in the spotlight. Among the top five in metres carried (169), Telea works hard to get himself involved in the game while his speed and strength are assets when he gets the ball in space. While the incumbent All Blacks wings are both quite young, there's nothing like a little friendly competition to keep them on their toes, which Telea is providing.
Josh Dickson - Highlanders
Suffering an injury at the weekend in the Highlanders' loss to the Crusaders has probably but a halt to all momentum Dickson had built. However, up until he was taken from the field on Saturday night he had been the standout lock in the competition. Dickson has excelled at the lineout for the Highlanders which has been an area of concern for every other team. Another player with a high work rate, Dickson is sure to have turned a few heads.