Andy Muirhead says the ACT Brumbies have found "a rose between the thorns" in rising star Reece Tapine as the Queenslander chases a Super Rugby chance.
The Brumbies plucked Tapine out of Brisbane rugby union after the former rugby league prospect's hopes of playing in the Queensland Cup with Burleigh were dashed by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Now the former refrigeration apprentice will press for his first Super Rugby cap when the Brumbies host the Western Force in a trial match at Viking Park on Tuesday night.
Muirhead walked a similar path to Tapine, having toiled away in Queensland and struggling for opportunity before the Brumbies came calling.
He has since established himself as one of the club's most exciting outside backs and tips Tapine may well do the same.
"He's probably a bit more talented than I was when I first came down. He's got a lot of potential," Muirhead said.
"Like the Brums always do, they seemed to find a rose between the thorns and now he is down here. I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes in a game situation.
"It took him a couple of weeks to find his feet and to see how things worked down here, but he has definitely impressed and raised a lot of eyebrows.
"He trains very hard, so I'm sure he will get his opportunity this year at some point."
Tapine has been leaning on the likes of Irae Simone and Len Ikitau - two Brumbies centres who rose into Dave Rennie's Wallabies squad last year - in the early stages of his time in Canberra.
Now he is determined to "prove a point" in a trial that may have him on a collision course with Tevita Kuridrani.
"Obviously coming down here I am new to the team and I'm obviously wanting to put my best foot forward," Tapine said.
"I'm obviously nervous, just because I'm new to the team, but I'm feeling a lot more confident now so it should be good. The boys that surround me are really helping me out, especially in the centre roles.
"I'm playing centre and wing, those boys have been helping me out with where I should be and learning all the plays off the field as well, just on the computer, and having more clarity around my role.
"It was a bit of shock at the start. A whole lot of plays to learn, in a new team and a new environment.
"It was hard at the start position-wise, but gradually over the pre-season I have found my role and found my position. I'm a lot more confident now."