Five Rookies to watch in 2021

Rookies

AJ Lam – Blues

22 year-old AJ Lam had a blockbusting Mitre 10 Cup season with Auckland last year. One of the highest try scorers in the competition with seven, the winger averaged 50 metres per game and made a total of 17 clean breaks in his 11 games. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Ben, AJ Lam is big in stature, weighing 105kg and standing at 1.92 metres. He’s extremely powerful, quick and a handful to stop on the flank. He joins an extremely exciting Blues backline in his debut season, playing alongside the likes of Caleb Clarke, Rieko Ioane and Mark Telea.  

 

Ollie Norris – Chiefs

Promising prop Ollie Norris actually made his Chiefs debut last year against the Crusaders, after being called into the squad as injury cover. He played four Super Rugby games and has officially been named in the Chiefs squad for the 2021 Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa season. The strong scrummager was a member of the wider New Zealand Under 20 team in 2018 and was called in for the closing match of the Under 20 World Championships in France. The 21 year-old was born in Sydney but attended St Peter’s Cambridge. Norris had a strong Mitre 10 Cup season with Waikato last year, playing 10 games and recording an impressive 96% tackle success rate. He’ll join an experienced Chiefs front row which includes Nathan Harris, Atu Moli and Angus Ta’avao.

 

Luke Campbell – Hurricanes

Expect a big season from Bay of Plenty Steamers halfback Luke Campbell, who is one of the number 9’s chosen to fill the void left by TJ Perenara at the Hurricanes. With Perenara in Japan for the season and the injured Jamie Booth not expected to return to play until the second half of the campaign, 25 year-old Campbell will share the halfback role with Counties Manukau’s Jonathan Taumateine. He returns home to Wellington having left the capital to play provincial rugby four years ago. He captained the Under 19 side that won the inaugural Jock Hobbs title in 2014. He’s been handed a lifeline from the Hurricanes and will look to make every post a winner with the side in 2021.

 

Chay Fihaki – Crusaders

Watch out Jordie Barrett, Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa has another huge kicker in the mix, and he’s from red and black country. 20 year-old Chay Fihaki kicked a monstrous penalty against Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup last year, to help Canterbury move out of the relegation zone. Fihaki was chosen as one of three players to attend an All Blacks Sevens national development camp after the inaugural year of Red Bull Ignite7. He’s the youngest in the Crusaders squad and has got a huge future ahead of him. Fihaki has been named as an outside back, but those in the know reckon he could play any position from 10 out. With the likes of George Bridge and Manasa Mataele expected to miss the opening few games with injury, Fihaki could find himself making his debut quicker than anticipated.

 

 

Sam Gilbert – Highlanders

22 year-old Sam Gilbert is still nursing a serious ACL injury, but is set to return midway through Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa. The Canterbury winger made his Highlanders debut last year in their opener against the Chiefs, having not been named in the original squad. But he suffered his season-ending knee injury against the Blues at Eden Park in June. Once fully fit, Gilbert will link up with the likes of Solomon Alaimalo, Jona Nareki and Michael Collins in the Highlanders backline. He will add a big physical presence, standing at 1.89m and weighing 98kgs. After a tough introduction to Super Rugby, there are high hopes he will bounce back strong from his injury and make every post a winner in 2021.

 

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