The start of a new Super Rugby season is always about making a mark, but does the enthusiasm, pressure, and hype go up that little bit more if it’s a World Cup year? I went and spoke with All Black and Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris to find out.
Experience isn’t something that Harris lacks, in fact he was a consistent selection for the All Blacks in 2018, having his busiest year since debuting in the black jersey back in 2014. But the 26-year old has come off the bench in all but one of his All Black matches, and with a trip to Japan on offer later this year, Harris didn’t mix words about his intentions ahead of another Super Rugby season.
“You don’t go to the All Blacks to always start on the bench so striving for that starting spot is important”, Harris said.
As one of the members of the Chiefs’ leadership group, Harris will be the likely starter in Super Rugby but will have to take at least two games off during the season as part of All Black protocols. This will be the case of every All Black player across every Super Rugby side in 2019, and with no International break, the two-game requirement could easily be increased.
“It is a case by case basis, but we will all sit down with All Black coaches and you come up with a plan that suits the individual so that can be at different times of the year”, Harris said.
You get the feeling that Harris is content with focusing on his own game and is accepting of not being able to control much from a team managerial and selection perspective. For example, despite being a senior ranking member of the Chiefs leadership group, Harris wasn’t approached for a potential co-captain role in 2019.
“Definitely not, no I wasn’t considered”, Harris said. “I was too busy enjoying my holiday but I am happy to stay out of that stuff to be honest”, Harris said.
The Chiefs selected Brodie Retallick to work alongside currently injured Sam Cane, a decision that was a “no brainer” for most involved in the franchise.
Could Harris argue in favor of his leadership credentials more in the future? Is it a conscious decision made by the man himself to not go after captaincy responsibilities? When asked that question, his response was interesting.
“I guess I can’t really comment on that”, Harris said.
At just 26-years of age, Harris likely has a lot of rugby ahead of him. Getting back into the groove after a relaxing holiday began earlier this week, meanwhile some of his new, younger teammates have been in camp for several months already.
“My legs were definitely tired after some long training yesterday but it’s awesome to see how our team in growing”, Harris said.
No All Blacks will feature in the preseason hit out against the Blues later this week, but Harris being the experienced hooker he is, knows exactly what his role will be when the regular season begins on February 15th against the Highlanders.
“Success at the lineout creates lightening quick ball for the backs to give us a good platform to strike off and score. You’ve got pretty much all the forwards grouped into one area so it gives our backs more of a one on one chance against their opponents, rather than us forwards running around like headless chickens and getting in the way”.
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