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May is a great time of year. In Sydney, the weather seems to cling onto the warmth of summer, decent swell starts rolling into town making us surfers happy, the Premier League reaches its crescendo.
And in rugby, you get an insight into what your national coach is thinking for the year ahead.
While coaches probably know their best team, they also have an eye on the players who have been putting up their hand in Super Rugby. In June, they can bring these players into the set-up to see how they perform with an experienced team around them.
So who could be the bolters this June?
The Wallabies have been calling out for someone to step up at hooker. Enter the Melbourne Rebels’ fly-half pulverising Anaru Rangi.
First and foremost, Rangi’s setpiece is accurate and he is striking up a good combination with Adan Coleman. But it’s his impact around the park that catches the eye.
In many ways, he’s a hybrid of Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau – he loves the physical stuff, tackles hard and hits rucks, while he’s deceptively quick for someone of his size, and he consistently gets the Rebels over the advantage line with the ball in hand.
It’s his physicality and toughness that I like the most, and the Wallabies need some hard men up front.
I also like Billy Meakes. He was in the squad last year but hasn’t been given an extended run. He weighs just under 100kgs and brings solidarity to the 12 position with subtle skills.
He loves to hit the line and is strong enough in contact to free the hands and get an offload away. His distribution skills are good – something the Wallabies lack if Samu Kerevi starts at 12 – and his defence is solid.
He could strike up a good combination with Tevita Kurindrani or Kerevi on his outside.
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I’ve ruled out Brad Shields, given his only bolt might be north to play for England! There are a couple other names that are really jumping out, though.
The All Blacks are blessed for talent out wide, but Ben Lam is currently lighting up Super Rugby with his eye for the tryline. He’s close to beating Ngani Laumape’s tryscoring record from last year (15) and it’s only halfway through the competition.
Physical in contact, Lam can break tackles and defend, and he’s solid under the high ball. He would also link well with the other Hurricanes players in the All Blacks backline. If he was any other nationality he’d be starting.
I’d also flag Jack Goodhue. I know he was involved last year, but he’s another who hasn’t been given a proper opportunity yet.
Blessed with good pace and strength – I seem to remember him bulldozing through a few Bulls forwards on his way to the try line – he runs good lines and has an eye for a gap.
The centre combination is one area the All Blacks are still figuring out, so maybe he would own that 13 jumper?
I’ve got two absolute wildcards here, but hear me out.
Sharks scrumhalf Cameron White is the first.
If you watched the recent Sharks-Highlanders game, you would have noticed his box kicks are accurate – the Sharks have scored from a couple already – and that he can kick long from the base or vary it with short chips in behind.
White flicks passes from rucks without a back lift, so his distribution is fast and accurate. He’s solid too, so doesn’t shirk his responsibilities in defence.
The second is Stormer hooker Ramone Samuels.
Samuels is only playing consistently because of an injury to Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni, but he’s really settling into that starting jumper.
His lineouts are accurate, and with Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff he’s one part of a formidable front row steamrolling their way through Super Rugby.
Malcolm Marx will start (if fit), but an issue for the Boks is how much athleticism they lose when he goes off. Samuels gets around the park, hits the advantage line, tackles, clears rucks and does the basics well.
I have a feeling his Stormers teammates Wilco Louw, Steven Kitshoff and Pieter-Steph du Toit will be on the bench. In terms of combinations, bringing on Samuels with three forwards he plays with is ideal.
Who are the bolters you would like to see in your team in June?