'I said pre-season that I wanted to bring George Bower in and he said 'who?''
Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson and the Crusaders have forwards coach Jason Ryan to thank for the presence in their ranks of loosehead prop George Bower.
Bower was on few radars ahead of the 2019 season but Ryan suggested that the Otago front-rower warranted a second look from the Crusaders, who were trying to find a replacement for former All Black Tim Perry.
Ryan revealed during the week that Scott Robertson – a man with an eagle eye for talent – and missed Bower completely.
“I remember Razor, I said pre-season that I wanted to bring George Bower in and he said ‘who?'”
By the end of 2020, however, Bower had emerged as a potential All Blacks prospect and was called up to the national squad for the final rounds of their Tri-Nations campaign.
Now, the Fijian-eligible loosehead is set to start in the No 1 jersey for the Crusaders in their Super Rugby Aotearoa final with the Chiefs on Saturday night.
While Bower needed some refining after joining the Crusaders in 2019, he’s come on in leaps and bounds.
“You just get around the good people with a thirst to be better and they just kick on,” Ryan said.
“He’s really made the most of his opportunity. It’s pretty special for him now to go on and have high honours potentially, but if he fronts in games like this in finals, that’s when the selectors will really be looking at it. We’re really happy with how he’s gone; he’s really left his mark there.”
An injury to the Crusaders’ first-choice loosehead, All Black Joe Moody, has handed Bower an opportunity to play some extended minutes this year.
"We always used to take things to the edge against them – and they didn’t like the way we used to do things."
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 5, 2021
That’s seen the 28-year-old go from strength to strength – anchoring a relatively stable Crusaders scrum throughout the competition despite his lack of Super Rugby experience compared to some of his compatriots.
Things were a little shaky against the Blues in the Crusaders’ last match of the regular season, but that’s seemingly always going to be the case when new combinations are being tested.
“Scrummaging is a little bit like a rowing eight – you need everyone working together at the same time,” said Ryan. “And a couple there against the Blues we weren’t, we didn’t really fire. But I challenge the boys on problem-solving and working out what’s going to happen next and making sure they’ve got solutions, and they responded well.
“[Bower] just connects up with his locks. He’s got Scott Barrett behind him, an experienced test player, so they have conversations during the week. I think we’re pretty alright now; it takes a game or two to find your rhythm with changes but that’s not an excuse for us now.”
Bower is expected to square up against former All Black Angus Ta’avao this weekend when the Chiefs head down to Christchurch for the Saturday night final.
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now