In-form Ngani Laumape hopes to be permanent fixture in Hurricanes backline in 2017
Ngani Laumape is hoping to continue his hot start to the year and lock up the Hurricanes' No 12 jersey for the season.
The second five-eighth, in his second season back in the the 15-man form of the game after leaving the Warriors at the end of 2015, has continued his strong run of form from the NPC, where he was a key attacking weapon for Manawatu, in two starts for the Hurricanes this year.
But the challenge will be maintaining that level for the full season
Last year he started the first six matches, but only played a minor role for the remainder of the season.
Laumape believed avoiding injuries was the key to that after battling a niggling groin injury for most of last year.
After getting the injury under control in the off-season, he has proved his potential again in the opening weeks of the competition.
The Hurricanes' big wins over the Sunwolves and Rebels meant it has been hard to standout in the Hurricanes' backline.
While wings Vince Aso and Julian Savea have taken plenty of praise for their efforts, the statistics prove that Laumape has been an equally key weapon.
With eight clean breaks, he is just one behind the duo, who lead the competition through two weeks.
Laumape tops the competition with 15 defenders beaten, is second in tries (3), ninth in carries (25), second in offloads (6) and third in metres gained (239).
Throw in two try assists and his 100 percent tackle success rate and his numbers make for impressive reading.
But he will need to tidy up his ball retention after turning it over six times in two games.
He said he was also looking to improve his passing and fitness.
Laumape said he was feeling more confident in his second season with the Hurricanes.
"The experience has been pretty good and I feel like I am starting to get the drift of the game again," he said.
While it is early in the season, there is already positive signs for his combination with midfield partner Matt Proctor.
"I highly rate Matt Proctor," he said. "He is a good defender, he runs hard and he works hard off the ball. It is good because he makes the job easier."
While higher honours was a dream for him, he said his full focus was on the Hurricanes.
"I just want to play every week and play some good footy," he said.
"I try and not think about [the All Blacks] at the moment, I am just trying to play good for the Hurricanes. But it is definitely a dream and a goal of mine."
That will continue on Friday night with the Hurricanes' first major test of the season against the Chiefs.
"They are a good team," he said. "They have a couple of class players in the backline so we just have to prepare well this week and see how we go."
Laumape has picked up a couple of nicknames in his short time back in rugby including the Wrecking Ball and the Minivan, but he said he did not care what people called him.
"I don't really mind, I just want to play good footy," he said.
If he can maintain his form for the duration of the season, fans could soon be calling him the All Black.