Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean ended the match with his bloodied head swathed in bandages but no further heart problems when he made his comeback via club rugby in Hamilton on Saturday.
Fruean played the entire Waikato premier division match for Te Awamutu Sports against competition leaders University at Waikato University and, despite being in the losing side, did enough to show he is ready to resume Super Rugby duties.
The 1.90-metre 104kg midfielder has been sidelined for the past nine weeks after he suffered from abnormal heart rhythms, including an accelerated heartbeat, during the Chiefs' home game against South Africa's Stormers at Waikato Stadium on March 14.
He had been able to control the condition with medication after his second open heart surgery last year, while with the Crusaders, to replace a valve.
Under the watchful eye of Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie, Fruean started the club match powerfully, scything through the Varsity defence to score an impressive try inside the first five minutes.
He got through a lot of work on defence, with limited opportunities on attack, and spent a brief time in the blood bin getting a cut above his left eye taped up four minutes from the end before returning to the field.
"I came away with one scar, so that's a good start," Fruean said after the match. But he thrived on a tough match against a dominant side.
"It gave me a chance to run around a bit, fill up the lungs again and get some match fitness under my belt, so it was good. It was awesome.
"I was feeling good out there so we'll just see how it goes and hopefully come next week I can put my hand up for selection [for the Chiefs] and go from there," he said.
Fruean had the option to play up to three club matches if necessary but he felt he was ready to go straight in.
"But it's not that easy with the team that we've got at the moment."
However, following treatment, he has already had the green light from his heart specialist and doctors with final checkups last week showing he was all clear to resume playing. "I just need to get these stitches out of the way now and I'll be fine," Fruean said.
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