David Havili’s scintillating early Super Rugby form continued on Friday evening as he captained the Crusaders to a convincing 33-13 victory over South Island rivals, the Highlanders, at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.
Standing in for injured skipper Scott Barrett, the 25-year-old fullback continued from where he left off in previous weeks against the Waratahs, Chiefs and Blues as he sliced the Highlanders defence on multiple occasions to put the visitors on the back foot throughout the contest.
Havili’s attacking exploits are reflected in his stat sheet from this match, which he ended with a team-leading 82 running metres, six defenders beaten, five offloads – the most from any player throughout the encounter – and a clean break.
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He probably should have also had a try assist added to that list as well, but a long range pass following his solitary line break to a wide open George Bridge was fumbled with the try line in sight.
Performances of this ilk have become common for Havili in the opening rounds of the new Super Rugby campaign, as he registered similarly compelling displays in Nelson, Hamilton and Auckland over the past three weeks.
Subsequently, the three-test All Black has become the most dangerous player in the competition with ball in hand, an accolade of which is again represented by his season statistics thus far.
He leads the competition in ball carries (45), defenders beaten (25) and offloads (14) – twice as many as the second-placed Jack Goodhue – while also sitting in second-equal for points scored (30), fourth for metres carried (258) and sixth-equal for line breaks (six).
So rich is his vein of form that fans are already predicting Havili’s return to the national side three years after his last appearance, while others have taken to Twitter to express their awe of the utility back’s attacking feats in the wake of his most recent showing.
— Koro Vaka'uta (@The_KorOcle) February 21, 2020
Im really happy with David Havili's performance this year #CRUvHIG
— ?? (@sweetxmelly) February 21, 2020
— #RugbyCrusaders (@RugbyCrusaders) February 21, 2020
— KINGPROKID (@MazwiZuma) February 21, 2020
6 – David Havili made six offloads in tonight's #CRUvHIG #SuperRugby game, Sonny Bill Williams is the only @crusadersrugby player to make more in a @SuperRugby game in the last decade (8 x 3 – v Waratahs, Highlanders and Sharks respectively in March 2011). Free. pic.twitter.com/B140kwpoQ1
— OptaJason (@OptaJason) February 21, 2020
It’s clear to see that an All Blacks re-call wouldn’t go amiss among New Zealand’s online fanbase, but whether or not such a selection comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Despite Havili’s exceptional start to the new season and all the utility value he adds, he still has to usurp the likes of Damian McKenzie and Jordie Barrett for his preferred fullback role, which was last filled at the World Cup by none other than Beauden Barrett.
However, his top-class form has proven him worthy of starting ahead of the highly-touted Will Jordan at the Crusaders, proving he can displace other creditable candidates from their respective places in the pecking order through his own ability.
That leaves new All Blacks boss Ian Foster with a premature selection headache, but with plenty of talent at his disposal, it could well be Havili who stands as the crème de la crème of Kiwi fullbacks when Wales and Scotland roll into town in July.
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