Pick up a rugby magazine in any of the Super Rugby countries – any one will do – and look who they’ve chosen as one of the rising stars of this season and you’ll be hard pushed not to find Brad Shield’s name on the list.
The rookie Hurricanes loose forward epitomises the new broom that’s gone through the squad for this year.
Shields was one of the stand out players in last year’s NPC as he was for the New Zealand Under 20 team.
But along with the hype comes pressure to succeed.
At yesterday’s Super Rugby launch at Rainbow’s End in Manukau, Shields was a player in high demand for interview requests and he says he’s still getting used to all of the attention that’s on him.
”It is a bit daunting, but I suppose you get used to these sorts of things,” Shields said.
As for being one of the most hyped rookie players, Shields hopes it will inspire rather than hinder him.
”I suppose it’s something to live up to and it makes you want to play and train that extra bit harder.
”But I do go out there to do my best in every game and hopefully that’s enough.”
One of the key messages the Hurricanes are putting out this season is that it should be more about ”the team” this year.
No longer can they rely on superstar players to win matches for them. With so many of the All Blacks from last year’s squad having moved on, if they’re going to win games this season, they’ll need to do it together.
”When we’d been together for just two weeks in the preseason it felt like we’d been together for a year,” said Shields.
”The key is that everyone has bought in, everyone wants to do well for the team. It’s all about the team this year, team culture and getting our fans and community into it.”
The Hurricanes have lost both of their preseason games, against the Blues and Crusaders and they’ll have their final hit out before the championship begins, against the Chiefs in Taupo on Friday night.
It’s their last chance to experiment before they play the Stormers in Cape Town in week one.
”We’ve had our wider squad playing in those first two games,” Shields said. ”The team that goes up on Friday will be the team that goes to South Africa, so we want to try the last few things out and then glue it all together.”