Wallabies back-row greats Simon Poidevin and David Wilson believe outstanding young flankers Liam Gill and Michael Hooper will drive each other to immense heights like George Smith and Phil Waugh a decade ago.
Queensland teenager Gill and Brumbies tyro Hooper have made such a mark in their first full seasons of Super Rugby that they, not David Pocock nor Springbok Heinrich Brussow, lead the ball-pilfering statistics.
While Western Force skipper Pocock, 24, looms as the Wallabies long-term No.7, former Test skipper Poidevin rates last year's Australia Under-20 squadmates as international standard flankers.
And Wilson, a World Cup-winning flanker in 1999, can only marvel at the 19 and 20 year-olds.
Gill has been instrumental in the Reds' return to form in the past month, grabbing his chance to take over from injured Beau Robinson, while Hooper's play has seen him poached by the NSW Waratahs for 2013.
Gill's five breakdown steals in Queensland's 42-27 victory over the Chiefs lifted him to the top of the ball-pilfering list on 14 - five ahead of Hooper who cooled his heels with a Brumbies bye.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie justifiably pointed out his young gun's scavenging ability was even more exceptional considering he spent most of the first month of competition on the bench.
''Yesterday against the Chiefs he was absolutely outstanding and I think the hardest markers of any No.7s are playing against New Zealand sides - they test them like no one else,'' Poidevin said.
''So the fact he's come through the Crusaders and Chiefs with flying colours is a big tick.''
The rising pair go head-to-head in a mouth-watering clash at Canberra Stadium on Saturday week in a pivotal Brumbies-Reds encounter.
Although neither 79-Test Wilson or 59-cap Poidevin are keen to nominate the better of the two, they no longer think the Wallabies will be caught in the same deep hole as last year when, without a sidelined Pocock, they were upset by Ireland at the World Cup.
They expect a healthy long rivalry which will be a huge positive for the Wallabies - like when Smith and Waugh emerged in 2000 after Wilson retired.
''George and Phil putting pressure on each other obviously made [them] better players,'' Wilson said.
''People had said we'd find it hard to replace David Pocock but now we've got these guys champing at his heels.
''Clearly Pocock is the king and these two guys are coming through.
''All three of them are so young - that's the amazing thing.'' AAP