Rugby: TJ Perenara welcomes competition in race for All Blacks halfback spots

TJ Perenara is welcoming a battle in the race for the All Blacks' No.9 jersey, amid a surplus of quality halfbacks vying for a spot this season.

While Aaron Smith stands tall as Ian Foster's go-to man at halfback for the All Blacks, exactly who takes on the second and third positions is anyone's guess.

Perenara and Brad Weber loom as senior options for Foster to turn to for the upcoming series against Ireland, while Blues halfback Finlay Christie has impressed in his side's run in Super Rugby Pacific.

TJ Perenara scores for the Hurricanes.
TJ Perenara scores for the Hurricanes. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

But the biggest wildcard of the lot is Highlanders backup Folau Fakatava, who's proven he's more than capable of offering a point of difference to Smith off the bench, as the side snuck into the Super Rugby playoffs.

And Fakatava's recent eligibility windfall for the All Blacks will only add to the 22-year-old's case, if he's to gain test experience before the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

The battle for halfback spots will only intensify as Foster prepares to name his first squad of the year, likely to select only three No.9s - meaning two test-quality players will miss out.

But while five won't go into three as far as selection goes, Perenara is confident in his chances of keeping his spot in the All Blacks' plans, content with his own form at Super Rugby level.

Folau Fakatava and Aaron Smith.
Folau Fakatava and Aaron Smith. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

"It's really good for nines in the country, and for rugby in our country to have this across the board," Perenara said.

"Personally, [in] my own game, I'm really happy with how I'm trending, and how I'm playing out there. 

"It's a style of footy that I enjoy that we [the Hurricanes] play, and it's a way that I can impact our team on both sides of the ball.

"But like I said, the ability to have nines playing well in our country is only a good thing for all of us." 

For now though, Perenara won't look past the Hurricanes' next assignment, travelling to face the Brumbies in Canberra in this weekend's Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final.

The match will also see Perenara raise his 150th match for the Hurricanes, comfortably in front as the side's most capped player.

For the 30-year-old though, that record won't mean anything, unless he can get the chance to make it 151 appearances next week, should the Hurricanes overcome Australia's leading side. 

"I probably don't reflect on it too much right now," he added. "In the moment, we've got a big game ahead of us this week.

"Those sort of reflections happen a bit later on. It doesn't feel like it's been 150 games to be honest.

"I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to the quarter-final sort of aspect more than the 150th game itself."

Join Newshub for live updates of the Hurricanes v Brumbies Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final from 9:30pm Saturday