Moana Pasifika midfielder Levi Aumua has been tipped as an All Black in-waiting, after confirming his move south to the Crusaders in 2024.
After nearly a year of speculation over his future, Aumua, 28, has made it clear he sees himself in the black jersey.
The hard-running centre has no shortage of test options - also eligible for Australia, Fiji or Samoa - but in moving to Christchurch, Aumua has signaled his intent to be an All Black.
As a Tasman Mako teammate of Aumua's at NPC level, current All Black David Havili will likely partner Aumua in the Crusaders midfield next year.
Aumua has already played for the All Blacks XV, making his progression into the test arena the natural next step - provided he's selected.
With the prospect of reuniting for country as well as franchise, Havili makes no bones of the fact Aumua has what it takes to step up to the international level.
"I've had him as a teammate for a few years, [since] he first came over to Tasman," said Havili.
"He was always destined for great things, but a few things held him back. He's got his balance in his life right now and he's just reaping the rewards of that.
"You've just got to look at what he's been doing over the last couple of years. [He's] right up there with the best players in Super Rugby at the moment - he's shown that in the stats he's putting out there.
"I've known Levi for a long time. He just had to get a few things right off the field - he's done that.
"He's just playing great football, I'm proud to see where he's come from."
While Aumua has limited time to earn selection left this year - with just two games left for Moana Pasifika - 2024 could be the window to impress the All Blacks selectors.
Unless coach Ian Foster diverts from tried and tested midfielders Havili, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown, Aumua faces a tough ask earning a test cap for this year's Rugby World Cup approaches.
Incoming All Blacks coach Scott Robertson insists selection will have to be earned at the very franchise he's leaving.
"His performances and consistency will reward him with selection," said Robertson. "We'll see how he goes in Super Rugby at the end of this year and next year."
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