Some of his team-mates might be looking overseas but Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu only has eyes for the All Blacks.
The Chiefs yesterday announced Pulu, 24, had re-signed with the franchise for another two seasons, taking him through to 2016.
Pulu later confirmed he is striving to become the Chiefs' first-choice No 9 ahead of incumbent and current All Black Tawera Kerr-Barlow as he pushes to achieve his ultimate ambition of becoming an All Black, with half an eye on the end-of-year tour.
"One of my goals is to try and be an All Black and for me to get there I've just got to make sure I tick off all the boxes at the Chiefs and not get too far ahead of myself," Pulu said.
The Counties Manukau Steelers' 2013 player of the year is currently sidelined until after the June test window after having keyhole surgery on his knee to repair a meniscus cartilage tear that kept him out of some games earlier this season about the time Kerr-Barlow returned from his own injury.
It also follows surgery Pulu had late last year to repair a long-time stress fracture in his leg, while the feisty halfback will also use the current time out to get rid any remaining bumps and niggles ahead of the last three matches of the regular season.
"I want to be right for the business end of Super footy. If I want to get that starting spot at the Chiefs I've got to try and manage it and get this leg right," he said.
Pulu is up against some stiff competition if he wants to break into the All Blacks squad with Aaron Smith, Kerr-Barlow and TJ Perenara all currently ahead of him and the experienced Piri Weepu and rising star Bryn Hall also lurking in the wings. He won't offer an opinion of where he thinks he stands in comparison.
"I don't rate myself to anyone. New Zealand is pretty blessed to have so many great nines in this country and for me I've just got to focus on myself and my game, just developing and learning more from the coaches at the Chiefs."
But he does have a pretty handy barometer with which to monitor his progress in the form of Kerr-Barlow, with whom he has competed for the Chiefs' No 9 jersey this season.
"It's great to have T here. He's a great person and he brings the best out in me, so having the opportunity to be part of a team that's got a halfback that is such a good measure for me to see where I am at is great.
"I get feedback from him on my work-ons so I am pretty blessed to have him here in the team."
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said Pulu's decision to sign on for another couple of seasons was "massive" for the franchise.
"He's been great and between him and Tawera we've got two of the best nines in the country who create a lot of competition for that No 9 jersey and until Augie got injured they'd had an even amount of starts," Rennie said.
"It's not easy for him when the other guy's an All Black, but if he wants to be an All Black he needs to put him out of the Chiefs No 9 jersey and that will make his road a little bit easier."
- Waikato Times
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