Former international fullback Mils Muliaina believes David Havili is the key for the All Blacks to overcome the Springboks this weekend.
The centre has come into his own in recent seasons, representing the national side for 19 Tests and recently becoming a centurion for his Crusaders Super Rugby franchise.
Havili was unfortunate to miss the first two Steinlager Series Tests against Ireland with COVID but was influential upon return in the decider match.
Muliaina believes the 27-year-old’s “stability” and “voice” on the field will be crucial for the All Blacks as they look to overpower the hosts on their home turf – a streak they have maintained since 2014.
“I don’t think (there’s) a guy that needs to step up, I think there’s just a guy that I think is very important to the backline and that’s David Havili,” Muliaina said on SENZ Breakfast.
“I think him being out through illness throughout that Irish series was massive and coming back into the fold in that last game, just being able to find his feet (was important for the All Blacks).
“Obviously he was heavily hit by COVID but I think he brings a massive part in terms of this backline (with) his skill execution but also his ability to be able to help Beauden in direction and voice and we’re just starting to see that.
“You saw that in the Super Rugby final, the way he played and the way he really stepped up.
“So it’s not so much him stepping up … (it’s) his stability and voice.”
The 100 Test All Black believes Havili’s game has grown dramatically in recent years, particularly in the tackle and as a distributor of the ball.
As the midfield requires players to bring “physicality,” Muliaina is sure Havili has the ability to counter the Boks and give his outside backs room to play the ball, just as he did throughout the 2022 Super Rugby competition.
“I’ve seen a different part of his game, particularly in Super Rugby – that physicality in the 12 jersey, in particular his tackling,” Muliaina added.
“I think he’s a key part because he brings something a little bit different.
“He can kick the ball, he can take a little bit of pressure off Beauden, he can carry well and now in his game that physical aspect in terms of tackling, he’s really starting to bring (consistency), so I think he’s a very key part to this All Blacks backline.”
Havili will join fellow Crusader Will Jordan in the backline as the All Blacks face the Bokke on Saturday night (Sunday morning NZST).
The side has plenty to prove heading into the clash following their failures against Ireland, and will be hoping a backline led by Havili can give them the edge at Mbombela Stadium.