'Flash' Masaga thrives in new Chiefs setup

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2012
Lelia Masaga
Getty Images
INTO THE SWING: Chiefs winger Lelia Masaga celebrates a try against the Western Force last month with his trademark exuberance.

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Lelia Masaga admits he took a little time to get it but now that he is totally immersed in the new Chiefs' way under Dave Rennie he is thriving and back in try-scoring mode.

Masaga scored a try in the opening match but then got injured in the loss to the Highlanders and missed three matches before coming back via the bench against the Waratahs, having to train the house down in order to fight his way back.

Few players have talked about the differences between the Chiefs under Ian Foster and his group and now under Rennie and co, but Masaga said the changes were quite dramatic.

"It was tough at the beginning, just trying to get my head around the game plan of Wayne Smith and Dave Rennie, but it's kind of sunk in now," said Masaga.

"It's different being coached by Ian Foster and the management staff back then, but I think this year is all about sacrificial acts by players on the field and probably off the field as well.

"It's very different. Just being able to assess your own game, when normally it's more a team thing, but in this team they watch every single player and every little thing you do wrong you have to come out at training with an assessment plan to ensure you don't make the same mistake again."

Everything had been started again from scratch, from the basic catch and pass to how they communicate with each other on the field.

"Stuff like that is always in every team but with us it's being drilled every single day."

Masaga admitted his injury had been a blessing in disguise, not only because it forced him to train hard to regain his place in the starting XV and in the process get much fitter and faster, but also showed him the 2012 team did not rely on any one player.

"As soon as I got injured other players were putting their hands up for the spot, but it's always going to be like that. As soon as you get injured you've got to be able to fight your way back but for me it kind of lifted things off my shoulders.

"Not always being the one player the coaches are expecting to be this type of person on the field as I was previous years."

Rennie told Masaga in his injury rehab he had to "trim up, be fast, be strong" and so that is what he did for four weeks before returning.

"Being able to come off the bench against the Waratahs was awesome – just being able to get out on the field and play for your fans and people who come to the game.

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"But as soon as I got a start I needed to make sure I cemented myself in the spot and did what I can do best for the team."

He looks to have done that, scoring his fourth try of the season against the Hurricanes last Saturday.

"I think I have but I've still got a few more things I need to touch up on – being able to play well with the team and actually play as a back three."

And as for the try-scoring, the man they call Flash who loves to celebrate his touchdowns is hungry for more but credits the fine details skills coach Andrew Strawbridge is putting into his game.

"He just drums into you every day that you should be running this type of line, getting this wide on this move.

"It was no different the other night when we had a walk-through before the game. Straws told me I needed to get really wide on that scrum move and it worked – I scored."

Now Masaga has team-mate and charismatic prop Sona Taumalolo's try-scoring feats in his sights. Taumalolo is the joint try-scoring leader of the competition with seven.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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