Robbie Fruean tried to convince Chiefs coach Dave Rennie he was ready to return to Super Rugby from his latest heart surgery five weeks ago.
Now he admits the coaches’ insistence that he bring both his aerobic fitness and match fitness up to a Super Rugby level instead was the right way to go.
Instead of playing against the Hurricanes on May 24 he continued with club rugby for Te Awamutu Sports, playing a total of four matches.
Fruean, who had open-heart surgery last year in Christchurch to replace a valve that had been previously been installed as part of original replacement surgery made necessary by rheumatic fever, played the first three matches of the season for the Chiefs this year.
But after starting against the Crusaders and Highlanders and then coming off the bench against the Stormers in Hamilton, Fruean was again sidelined with heart problems – this time an accelerated heart rate that was leaving him seriously short of breath.
After a further surgical procedure to fix the problem in concert with medication, the big centre has done his recovery and rehab by the book and feels ready to fire against the Highlanders and new All Black Malakai Fekitoa tonight at Dunedin Stadium.
‘‘I think in terms of desire and hunger to get out there it definitely helped me grow that aspect,’’ the 1.90m, 104kg Fruean said of his delayed reintroduction.
‘‘Just putting in the hard work on the training field I guess just helped me to realise that I desperately wanted to get out there so I tried to do everything I could.’’
Fruean said the extra training and club play had enabled him to move beyond where he was in terms of fitness prior to his last operation.
‘‘I’m feeling real confident; just feeling a lot lighter on my feet and feeling like I’m breathing a lot better.
‘‘Just being able to do a lot of the things I can see on the field, so I’m real happy I’m getting that extra breath out there, which is totally needed.’’
Fruean said he had always blamed the problems on his fitness in the past but once he came to realise what the real cause he was grateful he could find a solution.
‘‘I’m just grateful being able to get back out there on the paddock. There is nothing better than just being able to play rugby; even playing club rugby I was just grateful and happy to be doing that.’’
Getting used to the heavy contact involved in rugby again was the least of his problems and something he said he took in his stride as came back through club play.
Fruean enthuses about what he has seen from Fekitoa for the Highlanders and All Blacks, particularly his eagerness to run and tackle as hard as he can.
‘‘So I’ll be making sure I match that and bring a little bit more as well,’’ he said.
Rennie said Fruean had been telling the coaches he was ready to play again two weeks before the recent international break and before the match against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
‘‘We’ve held back and held back and made sure everything was good and we’ve asked him to play a bit more club footy and he’s done a lot of additional training and he’s responded better and better as time’s gone on.
‘‘We’re really confident now that he can go out and do the job,’’ Rennie said.
- Waikato Times
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