Here are five exciting young New Zealand players to look out for during the Super Rugby XV competition which starts next weekend. David Lim looks at the talent.
Beauden Barrett, Hurricanes
With Aaron Cruden now at the Chiefs, Beauden Barrett has suddenly become the Hurricanes’ hottest first five – no offence to Dan Kirkpatrick. Barrett’s game style will suit the “Crusader-ization” of the Hurricanes by Mark Hammett and is a very handy goal kicker. With the Hurricanes tipped to plumb depths this season, the finest back prospect to play for Taranaki since the days of Kieran Crowley really has got absolutely nothing to lose in his first season of Super Rugby.
Gareth Anscombe, Blues
Another first-five unexpectedly thrust into the limelight so early on in his professional rugby career, Anscombe is filling the void left by the departing Luke McAlister and Stephen Brett. The pressure is on Pat Lam and the Blues to reach another semifinal and go one better this time though and this season could be key in determining Anscombe’s future. Shine and he could even be in the reckoning for the black jersey later in the year.
Sam Cane, Chiefs
With McCaw out till April and now in the autumn of his marvelous rugby career following Rugby World Cup glory last October, battle royal has begun to find his inevitable heir. Yes, the man might say he could play in the 2015 World Cup but knowing New Zealand rugby, surely when someone younger, and fitter appears on the scene, their predecessor will walk away – or be forced to walk, i.e. Zinzan Brooke for Buck Shelford. Matt Todd was last season’s sensation covering McCaw while he was injured and will have to be for the first few months of the season. But look out for former NZ U-20 World Cup player of the tournament, Sam Cane. Fresh from a first season of Super Rugby, Cane will be out to prove that not all great openside flankers have to come from the Garden City.
Tom Taylor, Crusaders
Son of former All Black and Canterbury back, Warwick Taylor, Tom looks like quite a handy rugby player himself. He can kick goals and play anywhere in the backline. Given the loss of Sonny Bill Williams to the Chiefs, Taylor’s time might come in the midfield up against the talented but workmanlike Ryan Crotty and of course Robbie Fruean.
Kurt Baker, Highlanders
A serious injury ruled Baker out of last year’s Super Rugby but the Manawatu/Taranaki flyer is back and with a long-term injury ruling out Kenny Lynn from starting in the Highlanders backs, Kurt Baker is in line for a start in the outside backs while utility back Ben Smith covers Lynn in the midfield. Baker could be handy and offset the loss of Smith’s talent at the back. Whether he can make a logjam in the outside backs at the All Blacks is another story.