Waikato prop Ben May had special reason to celebrate after Waikato's Ranfurly Shield victory over Hawke's Bay in Hamilton on Saturday.
It was also his 30th birthday.
With that landmark achieved in life it is natural for rugby players to start thinking about their future, but there is no doubt in May's mind that he will be back next season to help defend the shield after another Super Rugby campaign with the Hurricanes. And he is excited at the prospect.
"A lot of these guys are going to stick around and we've built a good platform there with young and old so I think that year's experience, if they keep growing and we come back next year where we've left off this year, it will go a long way to us having a good crack at the title again," May said.
"I'm looking to stick around. I turned 30 today so I'll have to reassess but I've got another year at the 'Canes and I'm contracted for another year here and we'll sort things out after that."
May concedes things did not go so well in this year's ITM Cup premiership campaign and for the first time since 2009 Waikato failed to make the semifinals, let alone the final.
But the shield has been a bonus that lifted the tail end of their season and their strong finish pointed to reason for optimism next year.
"We obviously didn't look at it as a building season at the start - we were pretty keen to take out the title - but reality kicked in, we had a lot of new guys and getting them used to the new game plan and things took time.
"We won our last four games, picked up the shield along the way and brought back a bit of pride to the region, so that has put us in good stead for next season with a lot of young guys really stepping up and they're good to go now."
Waikato's scrum has been strong this season and that is a source of pride for tighthead prop May, who has formed a powerful front row with Toby Smith and Marcel Cummings-Toone which has been well backed by the back five.
"Those young guys who came in were a bit scratchy at the start . . . but they've worked bloody hard and I think today we showed dominance, the young lock [Kilgour] really came through and the loosies."
Waikato head coach Chris Gibbes said new scrum coach Carl Hoeft had a simple plan that had worked this season.
"He's very good at what he does and the boys have adapted and adjusted to it very well and he can be pretty proud of a very good scrum," Gibbes said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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