Ben Tameifuna is considering a permanent move to Hamilton as the burly young Chiefs prop continues his battle to get fitter and lighter.
Tameifuna, 21, burst on to the scene for the Chiefs last season as they went all the way to the Super Rugby title and was even part of an All Blacks wider training group earlier this year.
But his fall from grace back home with the Hawke's Bay ITM Cup side was well publicised: dropped due to lack of form, accused of ballooning in weight and an appearance in court accused of driving while disqualified.
Tameifuna has been back in Hamilton working with the Chiefs trainers for the last six weeks and is pleased with the shape he is in after being criticised for his condition throughout Hawke's Bay's ITM Cup campaign.
"I think they were expecting a lot out of me, coming from a Super 15-winning team, but at ITM I didn't have the likes of Craig Clarke and Brodie Retallick hitting 50-60 rucks a game instead of just me so my [lack of] fitness really stood out and I'd played a lot of rugby.
"I thought I was doing well, keeping our scrum stable and whatnot, but obviously getting around the field was a bit of a problem."
He still weighs in at 140kg and has suffered a setback to his training regime in being unable to do any more physical work before Christmas following an operation on his nose to fix an infection that resulted from earlier surgery to reset the nose that had been broken during schoolboy play.
But he is confident he will be down to at least last year's peak playing weight of 138kg and be fitter than ever by the start of the 2013 Super Rugby competition. Next year he aims to get more consistency to his year-round fitness.
Chiefs forwards coach and Tameifuna's mentor, Tom Coventry, wants his rising young tighthead star to improve his aerobic fitness and thus his mobility and endurance.
One way is for Tameifuna to move to Hamilton fulltime so that his fitness and diet can monitored and worked on.
"Since I've been living up here in the Waikato I like the place. There are good people around me like Mo [hooker Mahonri Schwalger] and Tom [Coventry] and all of them up here and I'd love to stay in the ‘Tron for all my rugby but I'm still thinking about it. It's not solid yet," Tameifuna said.
The young powerhouse knows he can contribute far more to the Chiefs and any team he plays for if he has the fitness, stamina and mobility to get around the field for a full 80 minutes.
"I know I can play the game - can catch and pass, tackle - but it's just doing that more often, repeatedly, and that means getting real fit.
"[The coaches] believe I'm a big threat to defensive lines and if they put me in the right places at the right times I'll breach the line."
Next season he is looking forward to trying to get back in the All Blacks squad. "I've just got to keep working hard. I've been working hard for the last month and a half, virtually since the end of the ITM Cup, because I knew if I wanted to get to that black jersey I needed to get into it early.
"That's why it's a bummer having had to have this operation on my nose and not being able to do anything. I was really looking forward to putting my results out on the fitness and strength tests, but it's just one of those things you've got to take on the chin," he said.
- Waikato Times