Young Auckland and Blues halfback Taniela Moa has been handed a grand opportunity. He has been called up to join the All Blacks squad in South Africa for their Tri-Nations assignment against the Springboks as a replacement for Andy Ellis who has aggravated his rib injury.
Duncan Johnstone writes for RugbyHeaven NZ that Moa will still play for Auckland in this weekend’s second round of the Air New Zealand Cup.
Auckland, shock losers in the opening round, defend the Ranfurly Shield against Taranaki at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon.
Given the magnitude of that match the national selectors have allowed Moa to stay back and lead a young Auckland backline. He will then jet off to the republic to join the All Blacks.
Halfbacks Jimmy Cowan and Piri Weepu are already part of the All Blacks 26-man travelling squad.
Ellis’ ribs, first injured during the Tri-Nations loss to the Wallabies in Sydney two weeks ago, were aggravated in training this week.
The 10-test All Black was ruled out of selection after medical assessment when the team assembled in Auckland on Thursday night.
The All Blacks flew to South Africa on Friday.
The All Blacks management have decided they need three specialist halfbacks in the squad, hence Moa’s rushed trip to the republic at the end of the weekend.
They are already gambling on having just two specialist hookers in their touring squad and don’t want to risk a training injury at No 9, something that would force Dan Carter into covering halfback.
The 23-year-old Moa is clearly seen as a player on the rise.
He trained with the All Blacks in Auckland last week as cover for Ellis before the Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies.
The All Blacks started Cowan in that test. The plucky Southlander responded by shaking off a knee niggle to produce his best performance in the black jersey and play a vital role in the 39-10 drubbing of the Wallabies.
Cowan seems certain to start again in Cape Town in a test that the All Blacks must win against the Springboks if they are to defend their Tri-Nations title.
Weepu will likely be handed the bench role again given his experience and goalkicking cover.
The All Blacks have signalled their seriousness for this encounter with their early departure, giving them a full week of preparation in the seaside city.
They will be hoping that Argentina can rough up the Boks in this weekend’s international in Johannesburg.
The Springboks have had the last couple of weeks off but now face a testing month. They play the Pumas, All Blacks and Wallabies (twice) on successive weekends in the republic.
Having one win and two losses in the Tri-Nations so far, the Boks will probably need to win all three tests against New Zealand and Australia – or haul in plenty of bonus points – to snatch the title from the All Blacks.Tweet