We are six rounds into the Mitre 10 cup and we have seen some wonderful rugby; The juggernaut that is Canterbury being spectacularly derailed by Wellington, North Harbour’s impressive form, and Otago’s resurgence, are but a few of the many talking points from this year’s competition. The quality of rugby on show has been largely impressive and shows what provincial rugby should really be about.
There has been expansive play, ferocious physicality, and spectacular tries galore. This season has seen some wonderful performances from some talented young players. With the All Blacks end-of-year tour looming large on the horizon, here are five young players who we feel are in with a chance of securing a spot in the touring party under the designated apprentice role.
Asafo Aumua (Wellington)
Aumua is probably New Zealand rugby’s worst kept secret in terms of potential All Blacks. When you watch this young hooker play, you feel that it isn’t a case of if he will eventually become an All Black but more like when. His destructive ball carrying, work rate, and pace saw him not only bully his way to an impressive hat-trick against England earlier on this year in the Junior World Championship final but also terrorise every team the Junior All Blacks came across in the lead-up. He is making his mark in the Mitre 10 Cup with his ability to do the dirty work that is part and parcel of being a hooker and his affinity for crossing the try line. His try against Canterbury last week showed his athleticism. Plenty of potential here, and the 20-year-old could really stake a claim should the apprentice spot open.
Alex Fidow (Wellington)
Another graduate from this year’s successful New Zealand U20s squad, Alex Fidow is creating quite a reputation for himself in the Mitre 10 Cup. A potent ball carrier and ferocious defender, who like his front row partner Aumua isn’t shy to cross the try line, Fidow might have caught the eye of New Zealand coach Steve Hansen. One thing that stands in his favour is that he is a tighthead prop and Hansen himself has admitted that the stocks in that department are running a little low. The opportunity to develop a young tighthead with bags of potential might prove too much to pass up for the All Black senior management.
Will Jordan (Tasman)
New Zealand is blessed with a world-class back three, but young Tasman fullback Will Jordan is improving week by week and putting in increasingly impressive displays for the Makos. He combines good running lines, great support play, and an ability to create space for his fellow back three players and put them into position to finish tries. He is no slouch when it comes to finishing himself either. A good runner who somehow finds space out of nowhere. Jordan is becoming an integral part of the Makos team. Another graduate from this year’s New Zealand U20s squad, he still has plenty to learn, but he is off to a great start. If he is consistent with his performances, he might just do enough to find himself in Steve Hansen’s plans for the future, especially playing a role post World Cup 2019.
Braydon Ennor (Canterbury)
The young Cantabrian, another New Zealand U20s graduate, is quickly becoming one of the best finishers in provincial rugby. Though generally a centre, his cameos on the wing have been outstanding and his versatility is worthy of note. His four-try haul against Southland earlier this season was a testament to that. He has been taking all the scoring opportunities that his teammates have created for him and is improving game by game. Big, strong and quick, he possesses desirable natural attributes for an outside back at the highest level. His support play is also impressive and his skill set is evolving making him a very exciting prospect for the future. Exposure to the All Black environment will undoubtedly help him keep developing his game and, hopefully, maximise his natural ability.
Jona Nareki (Otago)
An integral part of Otago’s resurgence this season, young Jona Nareki is an out and out try scorer. The 19-year-old wing, who was also part of this year’s New Zealand U20 squad, has been ruthless with his try-scoring efforts. He has put together several impressive performances for Otago this season, the most devastating of which was a match-winning hat-trick against Manawatu. Impeccable timing, an eye for the line, and impressive pace, combine to equal impressive try-scoring ability. Being in the All Blacks environment would really help him round out his game and complete his skill set. The future is bright for Nareki and the part he has played in Otago’s change of fortunes might just have caught the eye of the All Blacks selectors.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments below!
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