Five Players to Watch – Week 4

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David Havili (Crusaders)

 

One of the form players across the Super Rugby competition, Havili is a vital cog in the Crusaders' machine. This week, back at fullback, he also has the captaincy duties in the wake of the injured Scott Barrett not being considered. Being so far removed from the action can be a handicap for captains but such is Havili's penchant for getting involved in the line that should not be an impediment for the Crusaders. He will be well aware of the level of intensity the Highlanders will bring in their quest to maintain momentum. There is an emerging solidity to the Crusaders backline and Havili may be the touchstone to setting Christchurch Stadium alight on Friday night.

 

Mitch Hunt (Highlanders)

 

Hunt has had a subdued start as the first five-eighths for the Highlanders. He has been tradesmanlike in his role, developing his combination with Josh Ioane outside him and generally being a leveller in the side's match plan. But for the first time since transferring south he is up against his old side. That opens up two considerations: how much he knows about the Crusaders' approach and what he has been able to transfer to the Highlanders in the way of prior knowledge? It is a fascinating mix and given that, it is highly likely the Crusaders will seek to restrain his influence in the game. How Hunt copes with that will be central to the Highlanders' hopes.

 

 

Sam McNicol (Chiefs)

 

McNicol's return is a triumph of personal drive. He hasn't played since 2018 and there were concerns he would ever return. But since regaining his best touch he has been working hard with the Chiefs to prepare for his opportunity when it came. That is now at hand and while it might take more than a few weeks to reach the heights he gained in the earlier phase of his career, he promises to be a decided asset for the Chiefs' rearguard which already enjoys a high degree of attacking potency. McNicol is a wing with a nose for opportunity and given enough chances he is sure to seize upon them.

 

Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)

 

There will be more than Chiefs' fans wanting to see Jacobson make a strong return to the game. He seemed on the cusp of marking his arrival on the Test scene before being cruelly forced out of the Rugby World Cup last year. With his size, strength and rugby nous, Jacobson is capable of an unlimited future in the game and Saturday is an important step in his rugby rehabilitation. He also provides useful balance to the loose trio with Sam Cane returning to open side flanker and Pita Gus Sowakula offering his power off the back of the scrum. That should ensure plenty of work for the Brumbies' defences and how they cope might well decide the outcome of this contest.

 

 

Morne Steyn (Bulls)

 

The Bulls took a giant leap of faith when welcoming kicking supremo Steyn back into their ranks for the 2020 campaign. Never renowned for his distribution, or running, qualities at first five-eighths, he was, and remains, a kicker personified. That is why he will be potentially such an influential contributor to Sunday's (NZT) game with the Blues at Loftus Versfeld. He will look to put the ball in space in order to allow his big pack to rumble their way time and time again at the Blues goal-line. However, the Blues have opted for mobility in their pack, and in their backline, and it will be a fascinating contest to see if they are able to turn Steyn's kicking back on the Bulls and to stretch them all over the field with their running game.

 

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