Crusaders' Sean Maitland gets chance at fullback
Sean Maitland could almost feel the heat of the coach's glare on his back.
Axed after a lacklustre effort during the Crusaders' humiliating 28-19 loss to the Rebels in Melbourne on May 12, Maitland was annoyed but savvy enough to realise any display of petulance could damage his career.
If there is one thing a coach hates it is a sulker, so for Maitland, who lost his right-wing position to Adam Whitelock for Super Rugby matches against the Blues and Highlanders before the June test window, it was a matter of keeping his trap shut and his head bowed as he lined up as target practice during opposed trainings.
"You can't just sulk," Maitland said.
"You just have to get on with the job, and I haven't changed. I have been the same old me and the body language has been good."
Injuries to Israel Dagg (ankle) and Tom Marshall (shoulder) have ensured Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder gave Maitland a chance tomorrow night when he starts in the No15 jersey against the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium in Addington, Christchurch.
It is likely to be a temporary reprieve only, however. All Blacks fullback Dagg is certain to return to the starting side when he recovers, possibly as early as next weekend's crucial match against the Chiefs, but Maitland is thinking in the short term only.
"It has been a big wake-up call," he says. "I sort of looked at it like there is a grieving process at the time because you are obviously a bit gutted. I was gutted for a couple of days.
"The three-week break (during the Super hiatus in June) has been good to get my ankle right, which I injured earlier in the season, back to 100 per cent and to get fitter. Setbacks are tough but I suppose it just makes you want it more."
There is also the task of nullifying Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor if he makes one of his lethal line breaks.
Taylor has embarrassed opposition fullbacks and wings this season using his pace and Maitland is determined his scalp won't be a fresh addition to his trophies.
"He's pretty quick. He's gassed a lot of players this season, so you can't give him an inch.
"You just have to put yourself in a position where he can't take you on both ways."