Rugby: Hurricanes dynamo Cam Roigard not getting ahead of himself in race to be All Blacks' first-choice halfback

Despite his incredible rise over the last 12 months, Cam Roigard doesn't see the All Blacks No.9 jersey as his by right, as much as something to earn over the coming Super Rugby Pacific season.  

Aaron Smith's departure to Japan after last year's Rugby World Cup leaves the All Blacks with a huge hole at halfback for new coach Scott Robertson. Roigard, 23, stands tall as an obvious contender to build their side around over the coming four-year cycle.

Cam Roigard and Finlay Christie.
Cam Roigard and Finlay Christie. Photo credit: Photosport

The Hurricanes halfback made his test debut in 2023, and was picked to support Smith, alongside Finlay Christie, at the World Cup.  

Once Super Rugby begins, Roigard, Christie, Folau Fakatava, and TJ Perenara will battle to be the first No.9 of the Scott Robertson era, while the pair of Noah Hotham (Crusaders) and Cortez Ratima (Chiefs) can push for bolter status.  

Of all those available, Roigard possesses arguably the most dynamic style, with his passing ability complemented by a rapid running game, and left-footed box kick.  

Last year's World Cup saw Roigard fall behind Christie in the pecking order, as Ian Foster opted for experience over raw promise.

Despite many seeing the All Blacks' halfback spot as his to lose, Roigard concedes he doesn't feel the position is already his.   

"I'd say it's probably more so an opportunity," said Roigard. "For not just me, but for other nines in the country.  

"We've got some great nines coming through, and more opportunities with some others going overseas.  

"There's an opportunity there for another nine, and for that starting spot.  

"I don't think there's pressure or expectation. But [I'm] just trying to take my opportunities, if they come, and be ready for that."  

Making things harder for Roigard, potentially, is the fact he'll have to earn the No.9 jersey at the Hurricanes before he can push for higher honours.

Entering 2024, the Hurricanes have not just one, but two test halfbacks on their books, with Perenara on the way back after missing all of last season through injury.  

The 31-year-old re-signed with NZ Rugby last year, despite a ruptured Achilles tendon wiping out any chance of an All Blacks return for the World Cup.  

Smith's exit, along with that of Brad Weber to France, leaves the All Blacks lacking genuine test experience under Robertson.  

While Perenara has played 80 tests, the next best available option is Christie's 21.   

The battle for the Hurricanes' halfback spot could be a determining factor in just who laces up for the All Blacks against England in the first test of the year.  

"It's pretty exciting," said Roigard of Perenara. "TJ brings a lot of experience, he's been around for a while now, he's got a lot to add in that department.  

"He'll be hungry to prove himself, he's been out of the game for a while with his injury.  

"I think we're going to compete really well, and challenge each other.   


Cam Roigard.
Cam Roigard. Photo credit: Getty Images

"That's how you get the best out of each other, I'm looking forward to it, it's pretty exciting."  

However, Roigard knows there will be more pressure on him this year than there was 12 months ago.  

At the start of 2023, he was somewhat of an unknown quantity, as opposed to being a test halfback come the new season.

Regardless of how he's viewed, Roigard first and foremost knows that he can't rest on his laurels.  

"The challenge is probably a bit different to last year, there was a lot less pressure and more opportunities.  

"This year, it's about trying to improve on last year. There will obviously be a few more eyes and all that, but as long as I'm trying to keep disciplined and trying to improve each day, then hopefully I'll be heading in the right direction."