New Zealand are looking to rebuild their squad following high profile international retirements and have just been given an almighty boost.
With April nearly upon us already, the summer tours by northern hemisphere rugby nations is now only eight weeks away.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland head to South Africa, Wales to New Zealand while England head to Australia and Scotland travel to Japan.
While all will face stern tests, most would feel that Wales will have the hardest tour as they go to the back yard of double-defending world champions New Zealand.
The All Blacks are in a rebuilding phase now following the international retirements of key figures like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, two of the finest players in world rugby and near impossible to replace.
Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams will also be unavailable, following their moves to France’s Top 14, which means they are no longer eligible for selection. If there was ever a good time to face the All Blacks, you might say now is that time.
Things, however, may not be that simple. New Zealand have an amazing ability to develop new talent at a terrifying rate. Rugby is the country’s number one sport. It’s in the blood. The honour in wearing the All Blacks jersey is what spurs youth players on to become the best in the world. It is a system that has worked for years and shows no sign of slowing.
With the Kiwis looking to shore up the gap that is 197 caps lost to retirement in the centre of the pack, it is looking increasingly likely that they will turn to an, up until now, unknown name in the northern hemisphere.
Charlie Ngatai plays at inside centre for Super Rugby side Chiefs and at the weekend he laid down another marker in what has already been a stunning breakthrough season.
On Saturday Ngatai crossed for four tries in a nine-try 53-10 rout of Western Force. His personal tally equals the Super Rugby record and rubber stamps the view that he is now the frontrunner to fill the No.12 jersey left by Nonu.
Check out his four-try highlight reel below.
Video Credit: Jonesyboii
Ngatai has been scintillating all season, featuring in every game for the Chiefs, using his speed and power to devastating effect. Such has been his form this season, the 25-year-old is ranked inside the league’s top three for clean breaks and defenders beaten.
This is All Blacks form and puts him ahead of Ryan Crotty and George Moala as Steve Hansen looks to build his squad to face Wales in June.
One thing is for certain – in this kind of form Charlie Ngatai is about to become a household name, not just down south but in the northern hemisphere also.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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