Rugby nomad Patrick Osborne back for Cantabs
Patrick Osborne has plenty of time to ponder rugby at the dinner table.
He would prefer he didn't, but with his wife and two-year-old son still living in Dunedin the Canterbury wing has to get accustomed to the silences during his evening meals.
Osborne, whose game lifted at the Highlanders this year, has returned to Christchurch for his fifth season with Canterbury and won't return to his family in Dunedin until after the National Provincial Championship ends in October.
Before arriving back in Christchurch he was invited to flat with team-mate Joe Moody, but with the loosehead prop called into the All Blacks because Tony Woodcock requires shoulder surgery, he has been left to rattle around the house on his own.
''You are busy during the day but when you sit down at night for a meal that is when you miss the family heaps,'' Osborne, 27, reflects.
''They are staying down in Dunedin because it is just easier. My wife is giving birth in October, after we play Taranaki, so hopefully the baby doesn't come early.''
Canterbury are scheduled to play Taranaki in New Plymouth for their final round-robin match on October 12, and with the playoffs scheduled for the following two weekends Osborne will find his gaze repeatedly wandering between his phone and calender.
In the meantime he plans to commute up and down State Highway 1 when he can.
''Around four hours of driving - it seems like heaps of time but I have got plenty of patience. I have not done it yet because they drove up here for the home game last weekend.
''They will drive up for home games and if I get more than two days off I will probably drive down to see them.''
The decision to leave the Chiefs, where he couldn't get regular starts ahead of Lelia Masaga and Asaeli Tikoirotuma last year, for the Highlanders was a risk; he also declined an offer from the Crusaders because the Highlanders, who had lost wings Hosea Gear and Kade Poki, offered a more lucrative deal.
With the Highlanders prepared to back their attack, especially when in their own enclosed stadium, Osborne's game prospered as they made an unexpected rush into the playoffs.
Although they lost to the Sharks in the qualifying final in Durban there was no disputing that their season was a success after their dismal campaign last year.
''I guess it made me not worry who is in the team. You can have experienced players and stuff but it is what the team does as a whole that determines the future.
"The boys that we had really did well, just working together and we didn't need many high-profile guys.''
Osborne, as he did for last weekend's 48-9 win over Auckland at AMI Stadium, will again start on the right wing against Waikato in Hamilton tonight.
The 27-year-old scored a try at the death against Auckland, resulting in him decorating his own face with a ''V for the Varsity Vipers'' sign, and he could prosper if Canterbury's execution is accurate and weather conditions are favourable.
Another outing should enable him to hone a sharper edge to his game.
''I had about a month off after playing for the Highlanders and the body didn't feel too fit. The lungs were burning heaps, hopefully this week will be a bit easier on them.''