The North v South may have been postponed for a week, but there were still plenty of talking points after the two squads were named. Who was unlucky to miss out? Christopher Reive highlights five unlucky exclusions.
Du'Plessis Kirifi – Hurricanes
Kirifi finds himself the unlucky exclusion in a North squad full of form loose forwards. No one is going to argue the selections of Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Lachlan Boshier, Hoskins Sotutu and Ardie Savea, but at the same time no one would argue had Kirifi been selected ahead of one of them. The young Hurricanes No 7 was damaging this season, making 95 tackles in the campaign – second only to Highlanders and South pairing Dillon Hunt (100) and Shannon Frizell (98). He also showed his ability to get over the ball and secure turnovers, and showed plenty of skill on attack. At 23 years old, he has plenty of rugby left in him and his time at the next level will surely come.
Marino Mikaele Tu'u - Highlanders
Mikaele Tu'u is in the same boat as Kirifi. The barnstorming No 8 turned a lot of heads during the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with his mobility, strength and workrate. He was among the top 10 in metres carried (351) - the top forward in that category - took the third-most carries in the competition (94), had 11 clean breaks and led the competition in offloads (11). But, playing his provincial rugby for Hawke's Bay and being eligible for the North Island in the North v South clash, Mikaele Tu'u is a victim of the island's depth in his position.
Mitchell Brown – Chiefs
Given the lack of depth in the locking department in New Zealand, it's a surprise to Brown missing out on a spot in the North squad. The selectors saw the match as an opportunity to get Super Rugby rookie Tupou Vaa'i into the camp for some experience instead, and you can understand the reasoning as they look to blood the next generation. However, Brown's play in Super Rugby Aotearoa was worthy of recognition with selection; highlighted by the 27-year-old finishing the season as the competition's top lineout target, bringing in 29 throws.
Otere Black – Blues
Like Brown, Black might be a victim of circumstance. The North squad has just one first five-eighth – Black's Blues teammate Beauden Barrett. Barrett spent most of his season at fullback playing alongside Black, however All Blacks coach Ian Foster has said he sees Barrett as a first five-eighth and is using the opportunity if the North v South game to give Barrett a good run at No 10. Black was a reliable presence for the Blues during their strong Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign and came into his own as a leader on the field. But with Foster wanting to see Barrett at No 10 and saying it's a two-horse race between him and Richie Mo'unga, selecting another No 10 in the North would be somewhat redundant.
Luke Jacobson – Chiefs
Yes, Jacobson missed pretty much all possible rugby he could have played with the Chiefs this season – both pre and post-Covid-19 – due to various injuries. However, given he was fit enough to be selected it was somewhat surprising to not see him included in the North squad even if just for the benefits that come with being in that sort of environment given the next All Blacks squad will likely come from it. One of the country's best, most damaging tacklers when fit, Jacobson will have to force his way back into the conversation while turning out for Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Hookers: Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke's Bay) and Kurt Eklund (Auckland).
Props: Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Angus Ta'avao (Auckland), Karl Tu'inukuafe (North Harbour) and Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland).
Locks: Scott Scrafton (Auckland), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland and captain) and Tupou Vaa'i (Taranaki).
Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Hoskins Sotutu (Auckland).
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (Wellington), Aaron Smith (Manawatu) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki).
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki).
Midfielders: Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington).
Outside backs: Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Sevu Reece (Waikato) and Mark Telea (North Harbour).
Hookers: Liam Coltman (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman) and Codie Taylor (Canterbury).
Props: George Bower (Otago), Alex Hodgman (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Tyrel Lomax (Tasman) and Joe Moody (Canterbury).
Locks: Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland) and Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury and captain).
Loose forwards: Tom Christie (Canterbury), Shannon Frizell (Tasman), Dillon Hunt (Otago), Reed Prinsep (Canterbury) and Tom Sanders (Canterbury).
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie (Tasman), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury) and Brad Weber (Otago).
First five-eighths: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo'unga (Canterbury).
Midfielders: Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Leicester Faingaanuku (Tasman), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury) and Sio Tomkinson (Otago)
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury), George Bridge (Canterbury) and Will Jordan (Tasman).