Fresh off the back off another Rugby Championship campaign, this weekend will see the annual meetings of North versus South with Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa kicking off their respective European tours. With that in mind here are some of the players to look out for in the coming weeks….
Damian McKenzie (New Zealand)
A young player with a very bright future ahead of him, Chiefs full-back McKenzie has been a key performer for the All Blacks in 2017. One of the stand-out performers in this year’s Rugby Championship the 22-year-old played every match as New Zealand secured back-to-back titles and seems to be growing more and more comfortable in the test arena with every passing game. A player similar in size and stature to that of former Wales winger Shane Williams, the diminutive McKenzie is at his best running from deep with ball-in-hand with his pace and impressive footwork often seeing him rank high in statistics such as metres made and defenders beaten. With Ben Smith taking a sabbatical and Jordie Barrett out injured, McKenzie has taken his chance in the No.15 jersey for New Zealand this season running in four tries in six tests during the Rugby Championship as well as creating plenty of chances for his team-mates, and he will need to be watched carefully by opposition defenders this autumn.
Siya Kolisi (South Africa)
Stomers flanker Kolisi has been one of the most impressive performers in the Springbok jersey in recent times and continues to grow in influence for two-time World Cup winners. The 26-year-old is an athletic forward often seen roaming the wide channels and has a good turn of speed for a flanker as seen with his prolific try-scoring in the Rugby Championship where he finished the campaign with three tries, yet is also a strong presence in defence as well as at the breakdown. As captain of the Stormers, he led the South African side to the quarter-finals of Super Rugby this season and with 25 test caps to his name his experience and leadership skills will be vitally important in this campaign.
Marika Koroibete (Australia)
Despite only making his test debut against Argentina in September, Fijian-born winger Marika Koroibete has taken to international rugby like a duck to water with four tries in just five test matches. Having caught the eye for the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby this season the former Rugby League star, was drafted in to Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship and repaid Cheika’s faith in him by scoring in three consecutive tests starting with a brace of tries against South Africa, before scoring in wins over Argentina and New Zealand respectively. A powerful and direct runner Koroibete has added another dimension to Australia’s attacking play, and having struggled to replace the likes of Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper the Wallabies have finally found a prolific try-scorer out wide to finish the chances created by their skilful back-line. Something of an unknown quantity on these shores but given his form unlikely to stay that way for long.
Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina)
A bright spark in what has been a dismal year for the Pumas, 22-year-old Boffelli has shone in his debut season in test rugby playing in every one of Argentina’s eight tests so far this year. A player equally comfortable at full-back as well as the wing, Boffelli marked his test debut with a try against England in San Juan and followed that up with further scores in his next two test matches. A prolific try-scorer for Super Rugby side Jaguares as well as his country, it is Boffelli’s boot which grabbed most people’ attention in the recent Rugby Championship with the Argentinian back nailing a number of long-range penalties some from inside his own half. Not only does he possess great prowess in attack as well as from the kicking tee, but the young back has also impressed in defence where Argentina were often under pressure in the Rugby Championship and with games against England and Ireland to come he may have to do his fair share of defending in the coming weeks.
Featured Image c/o Getty Images