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'We've talked about Boshier, we've talked about Papalii... But he is hitting some good form': The race for the All Blacks No 7 jersey heats up

By Sam Smith
Du'Plessis Kirifi. (Photo by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

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Hurricanes flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi is the first man to admit that his form with the Hurricanes this year hasn’t quite been where it needs to be but his performance against the Highlanders over the weekend will have piqued the interest of the All Blacks selectors.


Kirifi didn’t earn any caps for New Zealand last year but he was called up ahead of the All Blacks’ trip to Australia where they played their final matches of the Tri-Nations.

With Sam Cane unavailable for at least the early stages of the test season and Ardie Savea also on the mend, Ian Foster and his assistants may feel that Kirifi is worth another look.

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“It’s probably not gone the way I’ve personally wanted it to go,” Kirifi said last week of the season to date. “It’s just been a bit stop-start, just hasn’t been as smooth as, I guess, I wanted it to be. Had a rough start to the season.

“Obviously, discipline has been a big factor in my game, personally, so that’s something that me and the coaches and mental skills [coaches] are trying to work on. But there are still positives that I can take out of my game. I feel like I’m doing some good things in areas but it’s just around being accurate for 80 minutes.”

The 24-year-old put in a massive effort in the Hurricanes’ 41-22 win over the Highlanders on Friday night, however, and it’s starting to hit his straps at the perfect time of the year.

It was a showing that former All Blacks hooker James Parsons nominated as the Farmlands Workhorse of the Week, commending the flanker for his commitment and passion throughout the match.


“[He] had a massive, massive shift,” Parsons said on the latest instalment of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“Massive at the breakdown turnovers, great link play. Scored a try but there was great link play and a lot of offloads that led to other tries. Big in defence, good in the lineout, good in the scrum. Ticked all his core roles with a bit of flair.

“Just his passion and his effort to celebrate with his teammates when they did something well was exceptional. It wasn’t just celebrating his own moments, he celebrated his teammates’ moments.”


With six rounds of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman to play following this weekend’s New Zealand and Australia finals, Kirifi has plenty of time to hit peak form before the All Blacks are selected ahead of the July internationals.

“He’s just hitting form,” Parsons said. “If he can carry this form on into the Trans-Tasman… [We’re] talking about a lot of 7s. We’ve talked about [Lachlan] Boshier, we’ve talked about [Dalton] Papalii, we’ve talked about all these other 7s but he is hitting some good form.

“He’s a man that toured with the All Blacks so he’s in and around the mix already and they do like to go back to their incumbents first. He’s hitting some good form and a pretty good time before that All Blacks team is named.”

Parsons also suggested that the efforts of loose forwards Adrian Choat (Blues), Pita Gus Sowakula and Liam Messam (both Chiefs) should be acknowledged, given their performances in their match on Saturday night.

“Adrian Choat, he was just everywhere. He was into everything, I think he split his head about nine times. Went off, came back on, went off, came back on. And just was into it. He was a mighty workhorse.

“I thought Pita Gus Sowakula was into everything, getting around. A few pick and goes through the middle. A bit of offload game, good carries. I think you’ve got to mention Liam Messam as a workhorse coming back at 37. That definitely deserves a tip of the cap.”

Parsons’ Aotearoa Rugby Pod co-panellist, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, suggested that Hurricanes No 8 Devan Flanders put in an Ardie Savea-like performance against the Highlanders which was hugely important in his side’s win on Friday night

“I thought he was outstanding on the weekend,” Hall said. “He had 45 metres with eight carries and actually beat four defenders.

“We talked around Ardie Savea, around him being able to beat defenders. With [Flanders] being at No 8, I think he’s been outstanding. Especially on the weekend but probably the last two weeks with Ardie being out.”

Hall also had good things to say about Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape, and the Blues trio of Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Hoskins Sotutu and newbie Zarn Sullivan.

Sullivan, in his first Super Rugby appearance, scored a well-taken try against the Chiefs and added a potent kicking option to the Blues backline.

“I thought he was silky,” said Hall.

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:


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