Chief Richard Kahui vows to get even better
If it wasn't for a small matter of a wedding, All Black Richard Kahui would be cursing this week's Super Rugby bye for the Chiefs.
While his team-mates are mostly hanging out for a break to rest weary bodies and minds, while picking up the automatic four points for the bye, Kahui has only just got going for the season after a 10-month break for a shoulder reconstruction.
But while the pin-up centre is not letting on just when and where it might be happening, Kahui's wedding to Australian-born fiancee Amy Rhodes is looming large and bye week would appear a good time for it to happen.
"Yes, it's coming up at some stage. It's coming up," Kahui said - with a huge grin on his face - of the big event.
He admitted that rugby-wise, he would rather keep playing after just 30 minutes off the bench against the Highlanders and then his first start and virtually 79 minutes against the Blues on Saturday night at Mt Maunganui - game time in which he has already made a huge impact.
"I'm trying to get the miles back in the legs and I get my first 80 and then I have a week off, but it'll be good probably to reflect on the last two games and see where I can improve.
"I did some good things tonight [Saturday] but there were certainly a couple of things I need to improve if I am going to contribute more to this team.
"[The bye] probably comes at a not ideal time for me but probably a good time for the team," he said.
Kahui was bordering on sensational for the Chiefs at Baypark Stadium, scything through the Blues' midfield defence, at the very least on attack getting them forward momentum a la Sonny Bill Williams 2012 edition, defending in his inimitable aggressive, hard-hitting style, kicking effectively when he had to for field position and getting the vital charge-down try midway through the second spell that put his team out to a commanding 23-9 lead.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie described Kahui's contribution as "huge" and said his big centre would take a lot of confidence out of it.
Kahui himself admitted he was "pretty poked" after 30 minutes on Saturday night but got a second burst of energy and was pleased he had almost made it through the entire 80 minutes.
"It was good to get my second wind this week, which I didn't quite get last week, and just about play out the 80."
There is no doubt the impressive touches Kahui got as an impact replacement the previous week gave him plenty of confidence to take his game to the Blues as he strives to fill the gap left by the departure of Sonny Bill Williams back to rugby league.
"That was just about getting a wee taste and I felt 30 minutes was plenty. [Rennie] asked me during the week if I felt I needed to come off the bench again or whether I would be happy starting and I felt really confident after the weekend's game so I felt this might be the best week to start.
"I felt pretty strong and felt relatively fit, apart from five minutes in that first half where I was really blowing."
Kahui has worked hard during his rehabilitation from his fourth major shoulder surgery and is keen to use the gains he has made in size, speed and fitness to make an impact.
"I really looked at my game and thought, ‘How I can have more impact on the game and how we play?'
"And so at the moment I just feel when I've got the ball in hand I can really have a crack at the line, and am making some good yards, which is giving me confidence as well."
Kahui said the Chiefs' attack was based on getting good "go-forward" and with Williams not there this season he is easily the biggest physically of the regular backline choices for the team.
"It is not always the biggest guy who has to carry but I feel really comfortable carrying at the moment and I've been trying as hard as I can to get the ball in my hands and I suppose the more I carry and get over the line hopefully Az [first-five Aaron Cruden] will call more ball for me.
"It's one of those things where you work as hard as you can and try and earn the right to get more ball."