Grace solidifies positive impressions
More praise for Crusaders rookie Cullen Grace after another prime showing for his side in their 33-13 win over the Highlanders on Friday. It is difficult to remember a debut player having made such a solid impression after only two starts. He appears to the manner born, playing with a level of understanding of what is required of him in every circumstance. He already has the physical capacity to handle himself in one of the game's most pressured positions, on the blindside of the scrum, and he demonstrated in his work containing the Highlanders' driving maul that he has a sense for the right action to be taken. It may be when injury recoveries make selection a little more difficult that his exposure may drop but in the meantime his emergence is something to savour.
Christie making his mark
Not to be forgotten in the attention-grabbing stakes is another Crusaders rookie, openside flanker Tom Christie. Having to step into a position previously the domain of Crusaders legends like Richie McCaw and Matt Todd, the former Shirley Boys' High School captain Christie has risen to the challenge superbly. He turns 22 next month but looks like he has been contributing to the side for years. That's not hard to understand given the example his predecessors set, and the fact he has been part of the Crusaders Academy since 2016, but already he is way out in front in the tackles won across the competition with 79. That 26 more than second placed Chiefs loosie Mitchell Brown and Jaguares strong man Marcos Kremer – pretty heady company.
Risk pays off for Blues
Blues coach Leon MacDonald and his coaching team took a fair-sized risk in unveiling their 'triple playmaker' option as it has been described for the game against the Bulls. The level of risk was compounded by the weather turning wet which was not planned for. But the three players concerned, first five-eighths Otere Black, second five-eighths Mark Plummer and fullback Stephen Perofeta, were unfazed in contributing to what was a welcome and necessary win at Loftus Versfeld for the side. Whether that remains a selection option for the much more demanding test at Newlands against the unbeaten Stormers remains to be seen, but at the very least it is a useful option for the Blues in future.
Lolesio grabs limelight
It's little wonder new Wallabies assistant coach Scott Wisemantel is smiling. He's delighted to see the younger players emerging as Australia look to rebuild their game. And if there's one player capable of making an impact it must surely be Brumbies first five-eighths Noah Lolesio. With long-time Test five-eighths Bernard Foley off the scene there is a leaning in some quarters to Matt To'omua or James O'Connor being first cab off the rank. But with the Brumbies the best side in Australia at the moment, Lolesio cannot be discounted. His case was surely bolstered in the manner of the Brumbies 26-14 win over the Chiefs where his contribution was greater than that managed by former All Black Aaron Cruden for the home side in Hamilton.
Bosch's stocks rise
If any evidence was needed it is clear from the weekend that first five-eighths Curwin Bosch is a key player in the Sharks side. A family bereavement resulted in him flying home from Wellington ahead of his side's only loss of their Australasian tour with only the Reds to play on Saturday. But he returned to help his side beat the Rebels 36-24 and in the process elevated himself to the top of the individual points scoring table in the competition with 46 points. His success is a reminder of how much he had to take a back seat to Robert du Preez Jnr in the last two seasons. Bosch is much more of a running player and has been able to spark a lively-looking backline. He's two points ahead of Jaguares player Domingo Miotti and 13 ahead of Stormers five-eighths Damian Willemse who has 33 points. David Havili with 30 points is the best New Zealander with Aaron Cruden on 27 and Jordie Barrett on 25.