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Penney: 'No lack of commitment and talent' from Crusaders rookie lock

By Ned Lester
Jamie Hannah in action for the Crusaders. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

One of the biggest voids in Super Rugby Pacific 2024 can be found in the Crusaders’ No. 5 jersey. The passing of the torch from the colossal Sam Whitelock to the next generation is a decade and a half in the making, and rookie Jamie Hannah looks to be one of the big benefactors.

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Whitelock and the black and red digit had become synonymous since 2010, a career that spanned such an extensive and successful period for the club that the 35-year-old’s departure feels like a piece of the club may be leaving with him.

Standing at 1.99m tall and 114kg, Crusaders rookie Jamie Hannah has years of mentorship from the likes of Whitelock and Scott Barrett under his belt, and is feeling ready to join the squad’s rotation full-time.

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“It was unreal,” Hannah told Stuff. “Just the knowledge you get off some of those older players like Whitelock and Scooter [Barrett] the last couple of years has been unreal.

“It just sets you up well if you do get a proper contract, so you know what you’re walking into.”

The infamous Crusaders Academy harnessed Hannah’s potential straight out of high school, identifying the skills and frame of the former Christchurch Boys High co-captain, who has added around 20kg in the few years since. Hannah says bulking up has been a challenge, but well worthwhile.

“I’ve definitely struggled a bit. It’s just the amount you’ve got to eat to put that weight on when you’re doing a lot of training as well.

“Doing lots of weights and then just getting stuck into the tucker.

”Running is definitely a little bit harder. But it’s just getting used to it. It definitely feels a bit better in the contact, so it’s worth it.”

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Hannah joins fellow youngster Zach Gallagher along with captain Barrett and Quinten Strange in the locking stocks for the Crusaders, and already has three Super Rugby caps to his name after filling in during the team’s injury riddled 2023 campaign.

The 21-year-old has himself been struck down by a shoulder injury, ruling him out of Canterbury’s NPC season. Now back up and running, Hannah has timed his run up well for January’s preseason training and also potentially February’s preseason trip to the UK.

The Crusaders play Munster and Bristol in a two-match tour in the opening weeks of February, a tour that won’t feature several All Blacks and will see the London-born Hannah pass through his old stomping ground.

Crusaders coach Rob Penney said Hannah’s future held huge promise, and his time would come.

”He’s recovered really well from his shoulder operation,” said Penney. “He just needs to be nurtured and needs to be given the opportunity to grow at his pace, there is certainly no lack of commitment and talent there.

“We just have to make sure we nurture it at the right time”

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