Tanerau Latimer admits he was ''pumped'' watching on TV his Chiefs side win their season opener in Christchurch, but he felt for his rookie replacement, Tevita Koloamatangi, who had to play on the strength of a couple of weeks training.
Latimer's now working furiously in the gym to try and get back on the field to take on the Highlanders this weekend.
The loose forward's been sidelined by a lack of feeling and strength in his left hand caused by elbow surgery undertaken to free a trapped nerve. He's also recovering from a pectoral muscle injury sustained four weeks ago during tackle training.
When fellow All Black Sam Cane joined him on the injured list with a knee ligament strain suffered in the final pre-season trial against the Blues, new wider training group member Koloamatangi was left as the only openside flanker in the squad to open the season.
But severe cramp took him out of the game in the second half and back-up hooker Nathan Harris ended up playing flanker.
''I'm nearly ready to play - I've just got to get the strength back,'' Latimer said yesterday.
''I'm a chance this week, but I'll just have to see how the training goes. I've got to be able to tackle, catch the ball and run so we'll see how that goes.''
Latimer watched on TV as Koloamatangi fought to stay on the field as his lack of recent rugby came back to haunt him.
''He did well to actually go through that first bit of cramp, but then I saw him get carried off and thought: 'No, he's had it.'
''He didn't have much rugby behind him and not much at seven. He only started running two weeks ago so I take my hat off to him.''
But Latimer was excited about being part of a Chiefs team aiming for a third Super Rugby title in a row and couldn't wait to get back on the field and be part of it, even though he had to watch the first game from afar.
''I was pumped. I texted [forwards coach Tom Coventry] after the game and said: 'That win was based on heart.'
''It's good to win on heart, but we can't keep winning like that every week because it will drain us.
''I suppose it didn't help with all the injuries and whatnot going down, but we've just got to sort out our numbering up on people and getting bodies in front of bodies.''
Latimer won't take any risks with his injuries and won't make himself available this week if he feels he's still not 100 per cent.
''You've got to be patient with injuries, because otherwise it could be a long-term injury. We'll test it and see how it goes and make sure I get that strength back.''
The Highlanders, led by the two All Black Smiths - Ben and Aaron - won't be any easier than the Crusaders and Latimer thinks they may have taken a leaf or two out of the Chiefs' defensive book.
Latimer is sitting on 98 Super Rugby appearances (he made his debut as a teenager with the Crusaders in 2006) and is eager to get back on the field.
''Going for three in a row is something special and that's a big motivation factor for us in this team, but if we could score some more points that would be ideal rather than tackle all day,'' he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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