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Are you watching, Steve Hansen? George Bridge fires All Blacks statement as Crusaders march towards Super Rugby crown


While Richie Mo'unga was peerless as player of the match in Saturday's Super Rugby semifinal, it was another Crusaders back who caught my eye.

George Bridge celebrates after scoring against the Hurricanes Source: Photosport

This man was one of just three non-All Blacks in the Crusaders' starting XV. All of them are playing like they have worn, or will wear, the black jersey.

Jordan Taufua, until he busted his wing, was looking strong in the opening exchanges. He has already won selection for the All Blacks, but cannot yet call himself an All Black. Bryn Hall is in the form of his life and is keeping a 2017 (non-Test) All Black, Mitch Drummond, on the pine.

Then there is George Bridge on the left wing. If Mo'unga was the best on park, then the resourceful No 11 was a close second.

You do not need to pore over the stats to know Bridge has a low error rate and a high work rate, not to mention an ability to grass his man, win the aerial battle, pop up where he is needed and finish any dangerous attacking movement with potency.

Bridge starred in the 2014 Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament for Canterbury. Last season he operated at fullback for Canterbury on the way to another Premiership crown.

But he also played every one of the Crusaders' 19 games in 2017, his debut year at Super Rugby level. With eight tries, he did not disappoint.

So much for the second-year syndrome. Bridge has taken his game to a new level in 2018, his try on Saturday night drawing him level with a clutch of players on the Super Rugby record season mark of 15, only to be overtaken late in the action by Ben Lam.

That latter score went strangely unremarked by many commentators, but what has not gone unremarked is Bridge's value to the Crusaders.

On Saturday night, he drove his shoulder into the midriff of Wes Goosen. It was not a surprise, as we know he is a sure and accurate defender and, at 96kg, is not built like the wing of current vogue. He also leaped high to beat Nehe Milner-Skudder to the punch in the air.

Bridge had the height, but he had the skill and courage too. His only error came with three minutes to play when he grassed a simple pass.

That was a shock.

Bridge will be up against some swift Lions this weekend in the decider, but despite the brilliance of Aphiwe Dyantyi, Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan, he should have their measure.

After that, he should ensure his passport is up to date. Canterbury may not see much of him in the Mitre 10 Cup, as he has earned a promotion to the All Blacks, at the expense of Milner-Skudder, who is trying hard but with little going his way.

Where once his dancing feet would open up defences, especially in 2014-15, now his long battles with injury seem to have zapped his spark.

In Bridge, there is a man who is multi-skilled and in prime form.

It is his time.