Otere Black's rugby apprenticeship is moving along at a rapid rate.
The Manawatu 20-year-old is only a wider training group member of the Hurricanes but he could be called upon to make his second start of the season at first-five against the Crusaders in Nelson on Friday night.
A knee injury to regular pivot Beauden Barrett thrust Black in to the selection discussion recently and further ailments in the Hurricanes' backline pushed James Marshall out of the No 10 jersey to fullback against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday night.
That meant Black was given his first start in Super Rugby and showed wisdom beyond his tender years as he guided the Hurricanes to a 29-5 win.
Chris Boyd's side are only one victory away from locking up top spot in Super Rugby and that may be sealed this week.
Black is also a member of the New Zealand under-20s squad and that side would love their vice-captain to be on deck for the impending World Championship event in Italy that gets underway next month.
Black's availability will depend on Barrett's knee. If Barrett, who won't play against the Crusaders on Friday, is fit to start against the Highlanders in Napier next week, Black will join the under-20s but if Barrett doesn't recover, the Hurricanes will hang on to the rookie five-eighth for at least another week.
Hurricanes assistant coach Clark Laidlaw said Black showed impressive poise in the victory over the Blues, while his goal-kicking was also accurate.
"For a starting debut, to control the game and run the team the way he did, it was hugely pleasing," Laidlaw said.
"We were rapt with him, the way he played. So we'd have no issues with him starting again this week or any other week for that matter."
The Hurricanes will have to assess their medical ward before they design the make-up of their backline for Friday's match.
Laidlaw said they had to be careful not to put too much pressure on Black, who made his Super Rugby debut when he played a few minutes off the bench against the Rebels in round seven in March.
"He's a very talented rugby player and his tactical awareness and his composure is probably his biggest strength. Physically, he's got a bit to go at Super Rugby to be able to play at this level, week in, week out."
When Barrett suffered his injury, he was tabbed to return against the Crusaders but the Hurricanes have taken a cautious approach as they move towards the playoffs.
"He's on track. We are happy with the way he's progressing," Laidlaw said of Barrett.
Black said his game had developed by having so many experienced players around him; he is also a noted student of rugby.
"I'm just trying to make sure I take all my opportunities," he said. "I like to do a lot of homework.
"You can't afford to be left behind at this level so you've got to make sure you know what you're up to."
Meanwhile, Laidlaw confirmed that wing Cory Jane (hamstring), lock James Broadhurst (knee) and prop Ben Franks (Achilles), who all missed the win over the Blues, would be available for selection this week.
All Blacks second-five Ma'a Nonu still needs to sit out one more game but that won't happen this week.