Super Rugby Pacific: All Blacks coaches witness early-season form of Blues stars Stephen Perofeta, Hoskins Sotutu

With new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson an interested onlooker, Blues stars Hoskins Sotutu and Stephen Perofeta have continued to push their claims for international call-ups with their early Super Rugby Pacific performances.

Powerhouse No.8 Sotutu was the obvious standout in his team's performance over the Highlanders at Melbourne, demonstrating his unquestioned athleticism with a hattrick of tries in the 37-29 victory. 

With the Blues trailling 15-8 early, Perofeta provided the gameturning moment just before halftime.

Stephen Perofeta and Hoskins Sotutu in action against the Highlanders.
Stephen Perofeta and Hoskins Sotutu in action against the Highlanders. Photo credit: Getty Images

Halfback Taufa Funaki scored a try and Perofeta converted to level the scores, but seconds later, the Highlanders were hot on attack, as the hooter sounded. 

Blues prop Ofa Tuungafasi put a big tackle on international teammate Ethan de Groot that dislodged the ball and everyone expected Perofeta to kick for touch and end the half. Instead, he ran from behind his own goal-line, breaking to halfway, before finding winger Mark Telea in support.

As the Highlanders scrambled back, they lost fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens to a yellow card, and from the ensuing penalty and attacking lineout, Telea powered over from close range, giving the Blues their first lead of the contest.

"We're talking about initiative and space, and freeing these guys up, so they can take those opportunities, and he did, " reflected coach Vern Cotter. "I thought it was outstanding and the reaction of the team to get up there, from one end to the other...

"It hurts opposition teams, when they think they have you boxed in and you find a way out. That's really, really pleasing to see and the support play that came in behind was good."

With a big turnover of players since last year's World Cup, Robertson faces a maiden campaign without All Blacks incumbent Richie Mo'unga at No.10.

He has options - primarily veteran Beauden Barrett or brilliant utility Damian McKenzie - but Perofeta, 26, with three tests already under his belt, has done his best to remind the selectors of his ability.

Also missing from 2024 Super Rugby Pacific is reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea, like Barrett, playing a season offshore in the Japan League One.

If Robertson needs a replacement, he may be tempted to give Sotutu, 25, another shot at the next level, after 14 previous appearances in the black jersey. He has now wracked up five tries in the new season's first two weeks.

"He probably needs to pass the ball to Dalton a bit more often," quipped Cotter.

Hoskins Sotutu scores a try against the Highlanders.
Hoskins Sotutu scores a try against the Highlanders. Photo credit: Getty Images

"He's hogging the ball, eh," confirmed Blues captain Dalton Papali'i. "He's a freak of nature, I've known him for years now, even growing up.

"He's got a skillset like no other, it's that Fijian flair he has. He's an awesome player, and has started last week and even this game on form. I hope he carries that on, because he's a key player in our team."

Added Cotter: "It was good the All Black coaches were there watching."

Robertson's first assignment in charge of the national team will come against England in July, so the 'Super Round' at Melbourne, with all Super Rugby teams on show at the same venue on the same weekend, provides an ideal opportunity to check out the form of All Blacks hopefuls.

Along with assistants Jason Ryan and Jason Holland, the former Crusaders mentor was in the stands at AAMI Park, where they will have a chance to watch his old team take on NSW Waratahs on Saturday, then Chiefs v Brumbies and Hurricanes v Reds on Sunday.

Join Newshub at 9:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Crusaders v Waratahs Super Rugby Pacific clash