Hurricanes prop Goodes ready for testing year
Reggie Goodes doesn't do short cuts or half measures.
It's why the Hurricanes prop's reputation is growing faster than his weight.
He has been slowly but surely adding to his sizeable frame, about three kilograms a year since he left Wellington College in 2009.
While most young props reach for the creatine for that magical 5kg-6kg boost, Goodes has preferred harder-earned natural measures. From 104kg he's now 113kg and building towards his goal of 116kg as he enters his first Super Rugby season.
Apart from his stocky physique, the first thing you notice about Goodes is his accent, distinctly Afrikaans. It's a product of growing up in Witbank, then beginning his education in Pretoria.
"Witbank was a small town about an hour from Pretoria, probably equivalent to Levin," he said this week. "It was good. I rode my bike to school. It was a safe place. Then we moved to Pretoria where I went to Afrikaans High School for Boys."
Otherwise known as Affies and situated across the road in the shadows of Pretoria's famous rugby ground Loftus Versfeld, it is not hard to imagine the passion with which the school's sides play.
Nor are the conversations at family braai with his father Llewellyn, "a fanatic Bulls supporter" and his grandfather equally as passionate about the Sharks.
No surprise then, when Llewellyn took an IT job in Wellington, the family home was in the Wellington College zone, or that Reggie was in the first XV in the fifth form. And that's the second thing you notice about this humble 20-year-old. He's focused, driven towards achieving his rugby goals. "He has a head down, arse up attitude and that's it in a nutshell," is how Hurricanes technical coach Richard Watt sums up his young charge.
"I watched him play three years in the Wellington College first XV when he first came over [to New Zealand] and he stood out to me back then as a 16-year-old the way he was willing to hit rucks and put his head in those dark places."
WHAT'S impressed Watt most about Goodes is how he handles adversity, something he may need in what shapes as a testing first year in Super Rugby.
"Last year was the measure of him because he went through the disappointment of not making the [New Zealand] under 20s," Watt said. "I sat down with him and said refocus on making the ITM Cup squad, go back to club, get the pain and hurt out.
"If he wasn't one of the top three or four under 20 props for last year's Junior World Cup then he was definitely ahead of them by the end of the ITM Cup in my opinion. Is he ready? I have no doubt."
Goodes admits he's still learning, last week's pre-season match against the Crusaders providing an early taste of what lies ahead. He described locking horns with All Blacks tighthead Owen Franks as the best scrummaging lesson of his life and "an honour", and made a point of having dinner with Ben Franks that night.
But intimidated? Not according to his coaches who say he was like a bull at a gate before the match and he freely admits he can't wait to pack down against Chiefs tighthead Ben Afeaki in Taupo tonight.
"Yeah, he's got that Boer blood doesn't he," Watt said. "He doesn't ask too many questions, but even in this environment you have to pull him back a bit because he just goes 100 per cent into everything he does."
That's included Tuesday scrum sessions with set piece guru Mike Cron where Goodes is said to have taken some time to understand the "passive" part of the technical lessons.
"Yeah, when we do the passive scrums he wants to kill the other guy, so you have to pull him back and that's great having players like that," Watt laughed. "I don't want to put too big a rap on anyone, but he reminds me of a young Tony Woodcock."
That might be getting carried away with Goodes so raw and in a battle for the starting role at loose head this season.
It is an area suddenly vulnerable after the departures of John Schwalger, Anthony Perenise and Neemia Tialata last season.
While Goodes will definitely shy away from his coach's comparison, his dreams are as big as his potential. "If I get the chance [to play in South Africa this year] it would be my dreams coming true. Since I moved here my dream has been to play Super Rugby for the Hurricanes and then to go back and play against those teams."