Hosea Gear happy to lead from front
Hosea Gear is in no hurry to hand over the Highlanders captaincy when Andrew Hore returns from suspension in week three of Super Rugby.
Gear has led the southern franchise through its three pre-season games while Hore sits out the ban he incurred during the All Blacks' end-of-season tour.
A swinging arm knocked out Welsh lock Bradley Davies and earned Hore a five-week break, including the season-ending test loss to the English and three pre-season games he may have played a limited part in anyway.
He will also miss the season opener against the Chiefs in Dunedin on Friday and, with the Highlanders having a bye in the third round, won't be available until the Cheetahs game in Invercargill on March 9.
Gear's tenure has seen the Highlanders pick up a win over the Crusaders in Oamaru, bookended by losses to the Chiefs and Blues.
He scored a hat-trick of tries against the Blues in Queenstown on Friday night, but was on the sideline as Baden Kerr stepped up to kick the winning penalty in the 31-29 loss.
As he signed autographs and posed for photos with fans at the Queenstown Recreation Ground the All Black winger said he'd enjoyed the experience of captaining the Highlanders.
"It's been challenging at times but I'm fortunate that we've got a lot of experienced guys in the side. That definitely takes a load off my shoulders. Trying to get the boys to gel together is the most important thing for me," Gear said.
So is he looking forward to handing the duties over to Hore, who was announced as the Highlanders 2013 captain last year?
"I'm sort of getting used to it, eh," he joked.
"It's like I said, I don't think my role will change much. We are more of a group as opposed to one guy leading the team."
The pressure of the skipper's armband has done nothing to deter Gear from crossing the sideline.
He scored in all three of the Highlanders' trial outings and banked five tries for the pre-season. He will be hoping he can carry that form into the competition proper after struggling to get across the white line last season.
Gear said the Highlanders were disappointed with their first half against the Blues - they let in two early tries and trailed by 16 points just before halftime - before fighting back to lead going into the final minutes.
"The boys showed a lot of character and we talked at halftime about doing the basics."
Highlanders wider training squad member and Otago openside flanker Hugh Blake has joined the franchise's long-term injured list after damaging a shoulder in the trial loss to the Blues in Queenstown on Friday.
Josh Bekhuis and Joe Wheeler also picked up minor knocks in that game, but should be available for selection in the season opener against the Chiefs on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Southern Institute of Technology will continue as the naming rights sponsor for the Stags.
- The Southland Times