While the New Zealand Super Rugby sides are laden with talent and depth across the park and there should be no major issues recovering from the players lost overseas following last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, the one position that might be causing a few headaches for new All Blacks coach Ian Foster is halfback.
Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Brad Weber travelled to Japan last year and while all three still look highly capable of performing on the highest stage, they’re all in the latter stages of their careers and may struggle to make it to the 2023 World Cup in France.
Pereanara, at 28-years-old, is the youngest of the trio. All three have been their respective side’s preferred starters in Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2020 while Finlay Christie has been the go-to man at the Blues since recovering from injury and Bryn Hall and Mitch Drummond have shared the duties at the Crusaders.
Hall has probably been the stand-out of the men who weren’t at the World Cup but he too is closer to 30 than 20.
That leaves Foster in the difficult position of quite probably having to bring a new halfback into the fold who isn’t starting at Super Rugby level.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 15, 2020
One man who wouldn’t have been even in selection discussions prior to the season kicked off is new Hurricanes recruit Jamie Booth – who spent three seasons with three different Super Rugby sides before settling well into the Hurricanes this year.
Booth has had a massive impact off the Hurricanes’ bench throughout the Super Rugby Rugby Aotearoa season and was finally given the opportunity to start a match when his side travelled to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders on Saturday.
He quickly set about his work, adding plenty of impetus and pace to the Hurricanes’ already dangerous attack.
The visitors’ first try of the night, scored by Vince Aso, was sparked by an exceptional run from Booth.
Wow. Just. Wow. ?? @Hurricanesrugby
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) August 15, 2020
Time and time again throughout the first half, the Hurricanes made breaks into the Highlanders’ half – and Booth was always on hand to keep the motion flowing.
During the halftime break, SKY Sports pundits Israel Dagg and Joe Wheeler lavished praise on the scrumhalf.
“[I’ve been ] very impressed with Jamie Booth,” said 2011 World Cup winner Israel Dagg.
“He’s been everywhere tonight and his support lines are probably what’s second to none. He’s always on the inside, he’s always covering his players. He’s testing the first and second defenders and he’s just Mr Fix-It and Mr Everywhere.
“He deserves an opportunity to get 80 minutes. He’s come on and done the job for the Hurricanes plenty of times and he’s doing well.”
2015 Super Rugby title winner Joe Wheeler agreed.
“This guy’s been into everything, he’s a real firey customer. Speed around the paddock. But I just love his work in his follow-up lines.”
By the end of the first half, Booth had clocked up 90 running metres, two broken tackles and two offloads.
While there’s still some uncertainty over whether the All Blacks will assemble at all this year, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Booth’s latest performance for the Hurricanes will certainly have perked Foster’s interest and a successful Mitre 10 Cup season with Manawatu could springboard the halfback in the national equation.
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