Rookie Watch: Grace steps up on debut

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Here are our three stand out rookies from round one.


3 Points: Cullen Grace (Crusaders)

There haven’t been many better starting debuts in recent memory than 20-year-old Cullen Grace’s effort against the Blues. The Timaru Boys High School product was a revelation for the Crusaders with his thunderous defence ensuring the Blues struggled to get over the gain line throughout the contest. A throwback to an older era type of player, Grace looks to be a hard-hitting, hard running and uncompromising loose forward. Now he has his first Crusaders start under his belt, expect the 1.90cm youngster to develop quickly under the tutelage of Scott Robertson.


2 Points: Tom Christie (Crusaders)

We are only three weeks into the season, but Tom Christie’s name is quickly becoming a fixture on the rookie leader board. Christie gets about his business in a no-nonsense manner and deservedly sits at the top of the competition’s leading tackle stats with 59 tackles - nine more than the Jaguares Marcos Kremer in second place. Christie was never far from the action at Eden Park and enjoyed a big battle with the highly rated Dalton Papalii in all facets of the game.


1 point: Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Highlanders)

After two powerful performances from the bench for the Highlanders Teariki Ben-Nicholas will be pushing for a spot in the starting line-up. Against the Brumbies in Canberra, Ben-Nicholas showed incredible strength to barge over for a try in overtime to give the Highlanders their first win of the year. A highly skilled player, Ben-Nicholas covered the wing in the season opening clash against the Sharks before covering his favoured spot in the loose forwards against the Brumbies.




5 points: Tom Christie (Crusaders)

3 points: Mark Telea (Blues), Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders), Cullen Grace (Crusaders)

2: Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (Highlanders)

1: Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs), Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Highlanders)


NOTE: The qualification for rookies is players that are either playing in their first season of Super Rugby or who are playing their first season as a contracted player and have played less than five games prior to 2019.


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