Big Ben Tameifuna goes 80 minutes, re-signs
As Ben Tameifuna reaches the point in the season when he can last 80 minutes it seems timely he signed on for another year with the Chiefs.
Tameifuna, 22, has become something of a cult hero in the nearly three seasons he has spent at the Chiefs and for good reason as a powerful 137kg tighthead prop who takes some budging in the scrums, carries the ball with both power and skill and tackles relentlessly hard.
He has taken some stick from critics during that time for his size and fitness but has always had the last laugh in propping the Chiefs to titles in the two finals played since he has been in Super Rugby.
If he does it for a third year in a row it will have been the hard way with the Chiefs still battling to reach the playoffs going into their last regular season game this Friday night against the Blues in Auckland and facing a qualifying playoff match for the first time even if they do.
''I think the last two years we haven't really got to play in the quarters because we've either been first or second, but the talk in the camp right now is that we can do it from first or second and we can also do it from sixth to fourth, so I think it is just the belief that will get us through this game,'' Tameifuna says.
But Tameifuna says he has learnt a lot since making the jump from New Zealand under-20s to the Chiefs where he was thrown in the deep end as a starting prop in just the second match of the 2012 season.
''I came in young and having two championships already under the belt I've just grown.
''I feel my body is 22 and my brain is 35 or something so I'm looking forward to another one or even a few more years here,'' he says.
Yesterday Tameifuna committed to a fourth season at the Chiefs, signing through to the end of 2015.
''I had chances to go elsewhere but I'm still young and being a Chief by choice is something I've really been pushing with my family, because that's how much it means to me,'' he says.
While still a little sore and cramping up in training on Monday, Tameifuna says being able to last an entire game was something he had been working on for a while and a lot of hard work had paid off.
Chiefs forwards coach Tom Coventry has had a lot to do with the recruitment and development of Tameifuna, even before he joined the franchise back in Hawke's Bay.
Coventry says while props these days seldom got the chance to play 80 minutes because there were two props on the bench it was a significant development in Tameifuna's fitness that he was now capable of doing that and the player had got a cheer from his team-mates afterwards for only his second 80-minute Super Rugby game.
''I thought Tama was performing pretty well [against the Hurricanes], in fact I thought the whole pack was and sometimes it's difficult to make changes when things are going well.''
Coventry says Tameifuna's core skills were at a high level, his tackling efficiency particularly good against the Hurricanes and his hits hard, while his ball carrying got the Chiefs over the advantage line several times.
''That part of his game has always been pretty good, it's just getting more of it and that's always been our challenge, getting more out of him,'' he says.