Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie; get ready to add the names Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane to the list.
Yes, it’s the conveyer belt that keeps on producing, and next month many in the Northern Hemisphere might just get their first glimpse of a special talent who has been a stand-out in the Mitre 10 Cup. Auckland’s season is now over, which may be a blessing in disguise for Ioane.
Will Steve Hansen choose to take the next step with him? We think so, if at least in an ‘apprentice’ role, like he did with Savea in 2013.
Before covering the 19-year-old’s unquestionable talent let’s first praise the stepping stones and environment that is leading to more and more youngsters developing at a rapid rate. That subsequently gives New Zealand real depth and makes 2017’s tour of concern for the Lions.
On that tour the best of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will, unlike in the past, face the Super Rugby franchises in a hard schedule that will test them twice weekly. Wales can attest to how trying that will be after this year’s 40-7 hammering at the hands of the Chiefs.
All five franchises displayed their class in 2016 as, despite an unfavourable fixture list, New Zealand’s teams finished on a total of 245 points compared to Australia’s 144 and South Africa’s 218. Four of their outfits made the quarter-final stage with three in the semi-final.
Ioane rarely featured for the Blues this term due to Sevens commitments, which has unquestionably accelerated his progress as a player. He has honed his finishing ability, decision making in defence and distribution, which has seen him take this Mitre 10 Cup campaign by storm.
His numbers are staggering. He’s scored two hat-tricks amongst his 10 tries this season, with all of those showing his searing pace and an ability, much like the All Blacks, to punish teams with a flick of a switch from defence to attack. Even Hansen must smile at his quality.
A competition best of 22 clean breaks, 62 defenders beaten and 812 metres makes him the hottest new property on the market in New Zealand.
Next on the list has to be Canterbury starlet Barrett, whose goalkicking, decision-making and crucially versatility has surely also seen him be a subject of debate amongst the selectors.
Do not be surprised to see a Barrett-Barrett 10-12 in black one day in the near future.
Like Ioane he is 19 but Barrett has yet to play Super Rugby, which makes the furore surrounding his decision about his first franchise so intriguing.
It’s clear he has a bright future and because of that ability to play fly-half, inside centre and full-back, he was in demand.
So could we be set for a situation whereby Barrett makes his Test debut before a Super Rugby bow?
Had his brother been firing off the tee in 2016 then that would be highly unlikely but that has not been the case, making it an intriguing decision when Hansen names his 36 men.
Barrett will hope for one final push in this weekend’s semi-final with Counties-Manukau, while for Ioane, surely he can start to pack his bags to head north.