Proving just about all the Hurricanes doubters wrong has been almost as pleasurable as the team's success, according to star pivot Beauden Barrett.
"It has been, although the true supporters have backed us all the time," he said. "I suppose that's just the nature of it. When you're not going too well people stop supporting you but there have been the die-hard fans who have stuck with us and I'm just happy we can repay them."
The Hurricanes, who sit sixth on the Super Rugby table, have a bye this weekend and a chance to freshen up as the Chiefs, next week's opponents, face a demanding fixture against the desperate Crusaders tonight.
The 21-year-old said the biggest thing the Hurricanes players wanted when they got together late last year was to bring back some respect to the franchise, something he believed they had achieved.
"I think we have achieved a lot this year because we didn't really know where we were going to go at the start. We wanted to grow as a group and win respect, that was our goal."
Barrett has been home this week, dividing his time between his flat in Oakura and his parents' place at Pungarehu.
He took time out from his break to turn up to Yarrow Stadium yesterday to help with the All Blacks Camp For Kids [ABC4Kids] where he was swamped for autographs and photos.
It has been a frenetic month for Barrett, who not only made his test debut for the All Blacks against Ireland but helped steer the Hurricanes to a memorable 23-22 win over the Crusaders last weekend to keep alive their playoff hopes.
"It was a great win because they don't come easy down there [Christchurch], so we're stoked," he said
"The guys had been training for a couple of weeks and played pretty well against the Reds over there and had done a lot of analysis leading up to the Crusaders game. It's the time of the year when it's do-or-die and we had to win that game."
Barrett said the Hurricanes squad was excited, as well as confident, of knocking over the table-topping Chiefs in Wellington.
"It could be our last game, so we'll be throwing everything at it. We're confident in ourselves because we didn't play well against them first time and we've come a long way since then and the belief has really grown."
After being written off by all in sundry before the season kicked off, Barrett said the belief in the squad had been driven not only by the senior players but the newcomers who genuinely felt they were in with a chance of going further than the first week of the playoffs, if afforded the chance.
"It shows in the confidence of the young guys. The older guys have really backed us younger ones, as well, so that gives us a lot of confidence."
Barrett still felt mentally and physically fresh, despite 2012 being the most demanding season of his short career.
"This week away is really good for the mental side of things, but it's going to be a good week next week," he said. "We will have to prepare well and throw all we've got at the Chiefs. I just can't wait to pull on that Canes jersey again because I love that team. I've got great mates in there who I really love playing with."
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