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'I won't say publicly what I think of him because he's a very confident young man'

By Ned Lester
Noah Hotham scores for the Crusaders. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

It’s been a dramatic fall from grace for the reigning Super Rugby Pacific champions in 2024, but one glaring positive to come from the Crusaders’ campaign is the rapid growth and emergence of halfback Noah Hotham.

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The 21-year-old showed immense promise in his various showings in 2023 before his rookie year was cut short to attend the U20 World Championships with the Baby Blacks.

In 2024, Hotham has made the starting No. 9 jersey his own, surpassing club stalwart Mitch Drummond and delivering influential performances throughout the campaign.

Another excellent performance from the youngster came in round 15’s win over Moana Pasifika, a game that saw the fate of the Crusaders’ season on the line.

Winning by a margin of 43-10, the Crusaders’ halfback contributed 70 passes, nine kicks, two offloads and a remarkable try to see his team over the line.

Following the result, Crusaders coach Rob Penney was asked about his young star’s season.

“I won’t say publicly what I think of him because he’s a very confident young man,” Penney laughed on the Sky Sport broadcast after the win.

“But that’s what makes him what he is. He’s a gem, on and off the field.

“For a guy that’s just turned 21; he was with New Zealand U20s last year in South Africa and they got taught a bit of a lesson, all those experiences are on the young man and he’s come out the back end of it playing so well and really driving our team around the park.

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“He’s working on some areas of vulnerability that he had and now turning those weaknesses into strengths is just so pleasing. Proud of the young fella.”

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Hotham himself was interviewed after the match and shared his thoughts on the reigning champions’ performance.

“It was a lot better, I guess we carried the momentum in from last week,” Hotham said.

“Moana’s always a tough side so it was good to come out here and put a performance in front of our home fans which will be our last home game of the year.”

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There’s no shortage of halfback talent in New Zealand, with Folau Fakatava, TJ Perenara, Cortez Ratima and Finlay Christie all featuring All Blacks selection debate while Cam Roigard remains sidelined with a torn patella.

One thing working in Hotham’s favour as his name enters the fringes of that debate is the strong platform he gets to play behind.

The Crusaders’ forward pack may not have been its traditionally dominant self in 2024 but towards the end of the campaign, the wheels were well and truly turning and powering through opponent packs.

“Shout out to the forwards, it makes a back’s life so much easier when you got scrums going like that and lineouts going like that, so we owe them a cold brew,” Hotham added.

Attack

170
Passes
152
115
Ball Carries
114
232m
Post Contact Metres
201m
9
Line Breaks
3

While short-lived, Hotham’s partnership with No. 10 Fergus Burke was a key component in the recent improvement in performances, and results.

“He’s bloody good, he’s got a good mind on him and a good boot so that helps and he’s a good balance with me,” Hotham said of his Saracens-bound halves partner.

A 45th-minute turnover from Ethan Blackadder ignited a counter-attack in Moana’s half and Hotham was the first recipient on the play. Looking up to spy space, the halfback put in an audacious chip-and-chase that landed just shy of the try line, bouncing up awkwardly for the covering defender, allowing Hotham to contest for the ball in the air.

Coming down with possession, Hotham dotted down to extend the Crusaders’ lead to 21.

“It was a lucky one, lucky the bounce came my way. I thought William (Havili) might snag it on the full. Just luckily it bounced up and was there for the grabbing.”

Defence

144
Tackles Made
145
24
Tackles Missed
16
86%
Tackle Completion %
90%

Now needing the Melbourne Rebels to beat the Fijian Drua and the Western Force to fall to the Brumbies to make the playoffs, the Crusaders can do nothing but sit and wait.

“I’ll cross my fingers, cross my toes. Sending all the best wishes to the Rebels, hope they have a blinder. I’ll probably just check in online otherwise I get too frustrated at the TV.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

6 Comments
m
monty 20 days ago

Similar to Arran Smith in his style of application.

J
Jen 21 days ago

Love watching this kid play. He’ll be wearing black at some stage.

G
Graham 21 days ago

Noah Hotham has put in some stellar performances at halfback for the Crusaders. Especially home win against the Chiefs, loss to the Highlanders and the last two home wins against the Blues and Moana Pasifika. Confidence and skill set. Well summed up by coach Rob Penney. Noah is a All Black in waiting.

T
Troy 22 days ago

This kid will be an All Black sooner rather than later. His ability to extract the most from any situation is unbelievable. Come next season he could be no. 2 behind Roigard. Another damn Crusader lol, out of Hamilton.

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