Chiefs' Masaga aware of what's required
Lelia Masaga says he needs to up his workrate in order to better contribute to Dave Rennie's more direct style of game in the 2012 Chiefs.
Masaga has scored 31 tries for the Chiefs since his debut in 2006, including five touchdowns this season despite a period sidelined by injury.
But both the flying 25-year-old, who has twice scored eight tries in a season for the franchise, and his coaches know he can do better since assuming the mantle of senior winger in the squad following the departure to France of Sitiveni Sivivatu at the end of last year.
"I've always questioned and the coaches have always questioned me why I'm not getting ball in hand," Masaga said.
"It's not about the game plan or am I used enough times in backs' moves.
"The coaches have always said to me I need to start going around there and hovering around 10, looking for balls off line and stuff like that."
Masaga, like his team-mates, is thriving on being part of a championship-leading team this season and wants to contribute his dazzling footwork, that once earned him the nickname "Flash", more to the Chiefs' attack.
Skills coach Andrew Strawbridge and head coach Rennie worked hard with every player to improve them and he was thriving on their insistence he work harder in games and inject himself into the game more from the blindside wing.
"It's the difference between your All Black wingers and your Super 15 wingers. Zac Guildford does a lot of that and does a lot of kicking as well, so I think it's just being able to develop myself.
"Me and the other winger have got to get on opposite sides of the field just to be able to promote ourselves either as a decoy or as an option. Just being able to get out there and get some ball in our hands is what the coaches want to see."
Masaga said, like his team-mates, he had put in a big pre-season trying to get fitter and stronger to cope with a faster-paced game and he had made sacrifices in terms of diet and social life.
"This year I've always tried to put the team first before anything else, just because I've only made the final once and I'm just trying to get there again."
Rennie said the Chiefs played a brand of rugby better suited to the requirements of consistent performances in Super Rugby where they wanted to challenge teams up front and go forward before they went wide, instead of going wide for the sake of it.
"If we look back to the Brumbies game, from the first whistle we were going straight to the sideline and it's not really us. We really need to work hard up front and commit numbers, and if we do that we'll find space and hopefully grind teams down.
"That won't change. I know the Chiefs are probably used to a lot of wide-wide style footy from previous years and we're certainly keen to move the ball, but it really depends on the situation and we are really keen to go up the middle first and create situations where we can use it wider," Rennie said.
So is it all worthwhile for a flair-filled winger who often stood out in the free-wheeling style of game under previous Chiefs coach Ian Foster?
"I love it," Masaga said.
"I love the fact the coaches are always thinking about every player, thinking about me trying to get up there, get more ball, because I guess I'm more dangerous with ball in hand."
Rennie said Masaga was "still finding his groove a little bit" but when they could get him ball and space he was still electric and created a bit of havoc.
"But we want to get him on both sides of the park, get him a bit more involved. He's been working really hard and is a bit frustrated he's maybe not getting as many opportunities [as in the past] but he's still got plenty to offer," Rennie said.