Aaron Cruden weighing in
How the littlest Chief has succeeded in the land of giantsANGELA CUMING
Aaron Cruden returned to the field against the Reds on the Gold Coast ready to lead the Chiefs through another title campaign with the lesson that you don't have to be the biggest to be the best in Super Rugby.
Cruden, who is targeting the playing weight of 85 kilograms this year, will never be the biggest or most powerful player on the paddock but a dedication to gym workouts and diet has seen the All Blacks' five-eighth become robust enough to withstand the physical rigours of Super Rugby.
''I know I am not going to be the biggest guy, but I like to think I have got a pretty big heart,'' Cruden says.
''I just get out there and give it my all, no matter what the situation.''
His advice to young, smaller players?
''My advice it to just get out there and make the most of what you've got.
''You know, you can't choose your body type or your height or anything like that but I think it's just adapting and making the best out of the situation.''
Cruden says he's copped some stick over the years from teammates about his small frame.
''When I debuted for the All Blacks in 2010 I was about 80kg probably one of the smallest fellas running around.
''But I've never been a big man, so I sort of get used to it and you've just got to do what you can I suppose.
''A lot of guys give me a bit of stick and say I probably can eat what I like and everything but I still like to maintain a pretty healthy diet.''
Cruden has often been targeted by attacking teams, but has shown much better defence than players bigger him like the Reds' Quade Cooper, who weighed in for his fight tonight in Queensland at 87kg.
''At the moment I am about 83 kg and I'd love to get to 85 kg throughout the season,'' Cruden says.
''It's just when you start running around and getting into the training it's quite hard to maintain the weight.''
But where Cruden lacks up in size he makes up for in being the quickest of the mark, and peak fitness.
''As a first -five you want to be quite explosive of the mark so you are around pretty big forwards and you've got to try and find the gaps when they appear,'' he says.
''I wouldn't say I bust through tackles, I probably slip under a few defence lines, but yeah it certainly does help I think.
'I've never probably played at 85kg so making that a target weight is going to be interesting, and that's it.
''You want to put on weight so you can take the knocks but at the same time you don't want to do that to jeopardise your other strengths on the field.''