The majority of the talk about how Richie Mo'unga, New Zealand's best No 10 by some distance, should/must/can transfer his Super Rugby Aotearoa form to the test arena may be missing the point a little.
Mo'unga once again did Mo'unga things in Saturday's Super Rugby Aotearoa final victory over the Chiefs in Christchurch but on reflection may not have been the most influential back in red and black.
That honour may have been pinched by David Havili, a fullback who has been shoehorned into the second-five position following injuries to regular midfielders Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor, and has done such a good job of it that he must be in the mix to wear the black No 12 jersey in July.
The perfect kick through for Will Jordan's try wasn't the half of it. Havili is so composed and such a good decision maker that he makes Mo'unga's job easier just by playing alongside him, and how Mo'unga may wish for similar consistency at the All Blacks, where for the last couple of years the second-five position has been a revolving door of Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue.
As Scott Robertson said after the 24-13 victory, one that cemented his fifth consecutive title as head coach at the Crusaders, Havili is a "special" player, and one who can play any position in the backline from No 10 out, one who is dependable on defence and with the ability both to straighten an attack and break tackles.
He's one with genuine leadership qualities who won an important turnover penalty near the end to allow his team to move to a more comfortable 11-point buffer.
The 26-year-old Havili, who played three tests in 2017 and hasn't played one since, has coped with his move away from his favoured position with admirable maturity, and his combination with Mo'unga appears yet another compelling reason for him to return to the black jersey this year.
An Aaron Smith, Mo'unga, Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown inside back/midfield All Black combination appears the most dependable right now.
The All Blacks need more playmakers on the field than simply Mo'unga, and with Beauden Barrett not a likely starter once he returns from Japan, Havili could easily fulfil that second receiver role that Ian Foster is after, and, best of all, the combination has been proven to work, albeit at Super Rugby level. The Mo'unga/Barrett combination, first tried in 2019, has not been as seamless. For the Mo'unga, Havili duo there may be more good times ahead this year.
Most influential players of the Super Rugby Aotearoa final:
1. David Havili (Crusaders) – A grimly determined and inspirational backline leader with a lightness of touch that highlights his teammates' creativity.
2. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) – Almost single-handedly destroyed the Chiefs' lineout and therefore their chances of a second-half comeback. He's playing as well as he ever has.
3. Ethan Blackadder (Crusaders) – Robertson thought Blackadder made about "a thousand" tackles in the final. It was more like 10 but they were nearly all high-impact ones. If the Chiefs created a spark on attack, loose forward Blackadder was there like a fire blanket.
4. Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders) – Played with his usual vision, confidence and accuracy as evidenced early with his cut-out pass for Sevu Reece's try. A late breakouts, long touch-finder, and around-the-bootlaces tackle on Chase Tiatia highlighted his quality. He also kicked four out of five off the tee. Chiefs' kicker Damian McKenzie could manage only three from six.
5. Samisoni Taukei'aho (Chiefs) – The big hooker was one of the Chiefs' most damaging ball carriers; he beat five defenders in his 63 minutes on the pitch and shaded his in-form opposite Codie Taylor.