When Alex Bradley finally broke into the professional rugby ranks at the age of 30 at the end of last year, he couldn't wait to test himself in Super Rugby.
But instead the Matamata plumber and devastating ball-running No8 has been sidelined since breaking a bone in his ankle in the first pre-season game against the Rebels in Geelong eight weeks ago.
Praised by Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie for his diligence in rehabilitating the injury and maintaining his fitness, Bradley is likely to return to action for his Morrinsville Sports club on Saturday.
But that's not quite the same as playing Super Rugby.
"It's one thing to be selected and named in the Chiefs squad but to actually get on the field is a bit different," Bradley said.
"With the South African tour coming up, hopefully I'll be right and ready for that – available for selection at least."
Rennie went six weeks unable to run after suffering his injury and said it was a frustrating experience.
"We had a pretty intense pre-season 12 weeks before Christmas and after so it was a shame to get to my fittest and strongest and have it pulled out from underneath me.
"But I packed a sad for a few days and got over it and carried on.
"I've been working hard with [trainer] Wally [Rifle] in the gym, doing bike, swimming, grinding and all the weights and stuff but I'm well sick of all of that.
"I could probably bike from Auckland to Wellington no sweat."
The result is that he is still in good shape and returning to running last Thursday and joining full team training on Monday.
"It's different though, running, obviously, than what it has been biking and swimming and it might take the body a little while to adjust."
Bradley said he knew it would be hard to get straight into the Chiefs' lineup with the team going so well but hoped for valuable game time in club rugby on Saturday.
"I'll find out Thursday morning I guess."
As far as playing for the Chiefs goes? "I'll get my opportunity. It's a long season and I've just got to be patient and do whatever I can to get myself right."
Lock Romana Graham has been back from his six-week suspension – imposed for headbutting an opponent while playing for Waikato against Canterbury in last year's ITM Cup premiership final – for a couple of weeks now and while he got 70 minutes for the Chiefs Development Team against Fiji A two weekends ago he had to give club rugby a miss last Saturday because of a sore back.
"I guess I'll have to start with club rugby and training hard. I guess I got myself in this situation and I've got to get myself out of it," Graham said.
"It's been hard watching the boys going well from the sideline or on TV but I've just got to try and put my best foot forward and try and do well at training so that hopefully when the time comes and I get the callup I'm ready to go.
"All you want is to be a Chief and be out on that field."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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