With six months after passing since Richie McCaw decided to hang up the boots after completing a historic double at the 2015 World Cup, many pundits deemed this post World Cup period to be a transition period for the All Blacks, with many big names leaving New Zealand rugby.
However, what with the current form of the New Zealand franchises in this year’s Super Rugby campaign it seems that hardly any transition period has been experienced, a large reason for their run of good form boils down to new leaders stepping up in the absence of past greats, namely, a new generation of openside flankers who are chomping at the bit to fill the void left behind by the ex-Crusader.
Since Sam Cane broke onto the scene making his All Black debut at the tender age of twenty, he has been heavily tipped as the natural successor to the 148 timed capped great, possessing many of the same traits as McCaw, his strong leadership qualities, breakdown awareness and strength with ball in hand have meant that the Chiefs star can fit seamlessly into the void left by McCaw.
Having already captained New Zealand during the 2015 World Cup against Namibia, Cane will be no doubt be looking to cement his legacy in the black jersey over the coming decade.
After an injury ravaged 2015 and now with the retirement of New Zealand’s most decorated star, fewer players have shown more hunger and drive this season than Blake Gibson.
The Auckland Blues star announced himself on the scene from the very first game of the Super Rugby where he scored a mesmerizing try, brutally dismantling All Black Ben Smith to cross over the whitewash. With excellent breakdown ability and an insatiable hunger the 20-year old will be one to watch for the coming seasons.
Another openside flanker who has impressed this season is 22 year-old Ardie Savea. The Hurricanes openside offers a strong attacking element, with devastating power with ball in hand and at the breakdown he is capable of causing serious damage.
Savea has been questioned over his size and doubts remain whether he possesses the necessary bulk at international level, his commitment to the New Zealand 7s may also limit his chances with the union squad.
However his natural talent cannot be denied and his superior athleticism makes him a significant attacking force in any team. Definitely one to watch for the future.
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