The All Blacks are set to add 10 more players to their 35-man squad for the Rugby Championship in the coming weeks. Liam Napier looks at four fringe prospects who stated their cases last weekend.
Taranaki's inspiring Ranfurly Shield triumph had many heroes.
Beauden Barrett produced that magic try assist, gliding past defenders as only he can to remind everyone of his class from No 10. Jordie Barrett knocked over the match-winning kick, as he did for the Hurricanes earlier this season. Teihorangi Walden, the stand-in skipper, delivered superb spot tackles and then gave a fitting post match speech in Te Reo Maori.
But at near every breakdown, Boshier harnessed the same hungry spirit he displayed all season in a losing Chiefs side. Once again Boshier frequently foraged in his natural habitat to cement his status as the best pilfering openside in the country.
Boshier's quest to crack the All Blacks was not helped by playing six for the Chiefs. He did so to allow Sam Cane to play seven, but the positional switch clouded the picture somewhat about his best role. Boshier is not big enough to be an All Blacks six.
In the amber and black he proved he is an out-and-out seven, one well worthy of donning the black jersey. As Dave Rennie noted, it's staggering he could not make the North Island side.
New Zealand's ridiculous back three riches – and a horror run of injuries – have overshadowed Havili's compelling appeal.
Havili recovered from emergency bowel surgery that could easily have ended his career to make an impressive comeback with the Crusaders, only to then fracture his thumb which ended his Super Rugby campaign.
The timing could not have been worse, with Havili stringing together classy contributions from fullback while settling into his role as Crusaders vice-captain.
He missed the North South match, and subsequent All Blacks squad naming, while his thumb healed. His return for Tasman at the weekend, in their 54-21 win over Northland, immediately promoted his name back into the mix.
Havili has matured into a footballer who always has time. It's a quality few possess. He is not flustered and has the versatility to play every backline role. With Foster set to bolster his squad for the Rugby Championship, Havili is near certain to get the call up.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Since the last of his three tests off the bench against Italy in Rome two years ago Tahuriorangi has slipped down the pecking order of Kiwi halfbacks.
Brad Weber usurped him in both the Chiefs and All Blacks, with Tahuriorangi relegated to a bench role for the Hamilton Super Rugby franchise.
Tahuriorangi grew up in Rotorua, and this provincial season has moved back to his home team after spending five years with Taranaki. Bay of Plenty, as a unit, were underwhelming in their narrow victory over Southland last weekend, but from an individual standpoint Tahuriorangi produced his best performance of the season, with one sharp, snipping run to score influential in the final outcome.
At his best Tahuriorangi is quick to the base with crisp delivery while posing a genuine threat to tight forwards around the fringes. In recent seasons, though, we haven't seen those qualities nearly enough.
With Blues and Tasman halfback Finlay Christie sitting out last weekend, Tahuriorangi's timely performance may be enough to earn the fourth halfback role for the Rugby Championship.
There is little justice in the rugby world when Kirifi is probably ranked fifth best openside flanker in New Zealand – behind Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Lachlan Boshier and Dalton Papalii, whose battered face spoke to another huge shift in a second losing Counties Manukau effort in Napier.
That's before you consider Waikato captain Luke Jacobson fits the imposing physical mould the All Blacks are seeking from their loose forwards.
Despite impressing with the Hurricanes this season Kirifi could not crack the North Island squad – yet his standing at such an early stage is represented in his captaincy of the Wellington Lions for a second season.
Last Sunday at Eden Park, the 23-year-old led Wellington to a rousing upset victory over Auckland with several telling turnovers.
Kirifi wears his heart on his sleeve and his aggressive approach to the breakdown earns too many penalties on occasions, but his potential and work ethic is undeniable. He's honing his craft alongside Savea, and will only continue to grow as he seeks to take the next step.