Hurricanes assistant coach Cory Jane has endorsed midfielder Ngani Laumape as the form second five-eighth in Super Rugby Aotearoa and believes he can emulate one of New Zealand’s best ever in the number 12 jersey.
The 13-test All Black was at his destructive best against the Blues on Saturday night with fullback Beauden Barrett often the unfortunate recipient.
Early in the game Laumape stood his former teammate up and beat him for pace down the left-wing side before barging over the top of Otere Black for the game’s opening try.
Later in the half he steamrolled Barrett as he attempted a front-on tackle, conjuring images of Jonah Lomu flattening Mike Catt in 1995.
“He just showed how devastating he is,” Jane said.
“You look at all the other twelves in New Zealand and I’m unsure any of them does what he does when he puts his hand up like that.
“When he’s in that sort of form it’s exciting to see. You see the confidence Narns comes out with when he has a good carry or gets involved in a good chase down the sideline or makes a tackle. It’s stuff like that he prides himself on and gets him excited. We’ve just got to keep him going this week.”
Laumape made some pointed post-match comments, telling Sky Sport that some people were “disrespecting my name”.
“I just wanted to come out and show everyone the way that I play. Let those people keep disrespecting my name, because I’m going to turn up every week. Too many people talking; I’m just going to be me,” Laumape said.
Jane wasn’t sure who Laumape was referring too, but guessed it stemmed from critics who cast the midfielder as a wrecking ball without a whole lot of finesse.
“He’s the type of player who people think is one-dimensional,” said Jane.
“He can pass and kick but when you’re so dominant at one facet of the game – and he is, out of everyone, the most dominant – people still have to stop you. There’s no point just for the sake of it thinking, “I’ve got to make this pass or I have to kick.
“There are other areas he’s not bad at and can still get better at but he’s pretty bloody good at running the ball. If you want someone to run hard and commit to everything, he’s your guy.
“He seems to be missing out on the All Blacks in the last few years. He gets a shot but then misses out the next time. It will be interesting to see what (happens) if he continues to do what he did in the weekend and then going forward to when the All Blacks play,” Jane said.
Jane also sees similarities between Laumape and his former Hurricanes and All Blacks teammate Ma’a Nonu.
“When you’re a big player like that – and Ma’a was the same – he was a big runner, which is a big strength of Narns as well – you’ve got to keep working at passing and the kicking.
“Ma’a became one of the best passing twelves in world rugby, but he also took a little bit of time to understand his game. Narns is sometimes (caught) between trying to pass or kick too much and he’s trying to figure out his game but when you have a big foundation and can run the ball hard and put teams under pressure, it’s a good spot to be in.”
As for how he might have dealt with the rampaging Laumape that Barrett faced on Saturday night, Jane’s trademark humour was quickly to the fore.
“I’d probably do what Beaudy did,” grinned Jane.
“That was a good business decision. He probably thought, ‘I’m not dealing with this today. I’ve got more games I want to play in my career!'”
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