All the talk in the early stages of Super Rugby Aotearoa has concerned the young players putting their hands up for debut selections in the All Blacks squad but it was one of the (slightly) more experienced who re-announced himself to the world on Saturday night.

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The Blues’ Hoskins Sotutu, Cullen Grace of the Crusaders and Highlanders man Marino Mikaele Tu’u have all received plenty of praise for their performances in 2020 but it was 9-cap All Blacks Shannon Frizell who brought the Highlanders to life in their match-up with the Crusaders.

Frizell earned his first call-up to the New Zealand national team in 2018 after only migrating to the country from Tonga three years prior. While the rangey loose forward has clocked up a few tests here and there for the All Blacks over the last two years, he’s operated as a bit of a dark horse in 2020.

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That dark horse status is well and truly gone after his barnstorming showing against the Highlanders’ northern rivals.

Frizell started the match by expertly reclaiming the first-up Highlanders kick-off and went about his business like a demented mole in the early stages of the game.

It was right at the end of the first quarter that Frizell really made his mark, however.

The Highlanders were attacking the Crusaders on the right-hand flank and powerful carries from Jona Nareki and Dillon Hunt handed the home team possession inside the Crusaders’ 22. From there, Aaron Smith’s bullet pass found Frizell 10 metres out from the goal line and the former Tongan age-grade footballer exploded onto the ball.

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Frizell made contact with six defenders on the way to the Crusaders line and carried five of them over the chalk as he slammed the ball down for a try.

Moments later, Frizell was stripping a Crusaders attacker in the carry while his defensive work was impressive throughout the first 40 minutes of the match.

Unsurprisingly, social media went wild in response to Frizell’s performance:

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