Hardie eyes club game for return as foot heals

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012
John Hardie
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
HURTING: Highlanders flanker John Hardie on the charge against the Waratahs earlier this season.

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John Hardie is targeting a rare appearance for his club team Star as he tries to get fit for the national provincial championship after undergoing foot surgery.

Hardie was the form openside flanker in Super Rugby before a foot injury ended his campaign after just four rounds with the Highlanders.

Although he could be close to playing before the end of the Super Rugby regular season, Hardie said it was more likely that he would make his way back through club rugby and Southland's buildup to the NPC.

The turf toe injury, something more commonly associated with props or NFL players, was complicated by a fractured toe, which had to be sewn back together, extending his recovery to three months.

However, Hardie is hoping for good news when he meets a specialist on Monday, including being allowed to take off the moonboot he has been wearing to protect his foot.

"They said three months from my surgery but I'm hoping it's going to be earlier," Hardie said. "Hopefully, the specialist is happy with how it's going, everyone else seems to be happy, so that's good."

The moonboot has proved to be a painful reminder of the rugby Hardie is missing out on.

His brothers tried to remedy the situation by making some alterations to the maimai for last weekend's duckshooting opening, but Hardie had to spend much of the day sitting down.

Being a spectator to the Highlanders' season has also hurt.

"I was pretty happy with the way everything was going,"Hardie said. "I was really enjoying my rugby. It was a bit of a bugger to happen in that time, but you've got to take it on the chin and it just makes you more hungry.

"I've watched every game and I get more nervous watching than when I'm playing the game."

The No7 jersey has had a hex attached to it this season, along with the No10 shirt for the Highlanders this season.

While Colin Slade, Lima Sopoaga and Chris Noakes have all suffered injuries playing first-five this season, Hardie and Doug Tietjens have both suffered long-term injuries, while James Haskell still has two weeks left of a three-week ban for punching.

Hale T-Pole and Southland's Tim Boys have been called up as loose forward cover, and one of them will probably be wearing the No7 jersey against the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday night.

Hardie said he wished his Stags team-mate Boys well.

"It will be good for him," he said. "He's a top-quality player and he's played before at this level. He always stands up for the big games and he will go well."

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