Ben Afeaki fighting his way back into Chiefs squad

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2012
Ben Afiaki
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

FIGHTING BACK: Toby Smith (left) and Ben Afeaki at Chiefs training.

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Ben Afeaki will consider his season a write-off if he cannot force his way back into the Chiefs' playing 22 for next week's Super Rugby home semifinal.

The big North Harbour tighthead prop is back training with the Chiefs after not playing rugby for seven weeks thanks to a concussion suffered against the Blues on his provincial home ground in Albany on June 2.

The debilitating aftereffects of that concussion meant he was unable to train fully, let alone play, for 5 weeks as the Chiefs worked their way towards the home semi.

The Blues match was only his second game back after missing 13 weeks with a broken arm suffered in the season opener in February.

"It's been tough," said Afeaki of his concussion symptoms. "I've been getting a bit of nausea, a little bit of dizziness in the mornings and that."

But he was now getting back to normal and Auckland specialist James Cunningham confirmed that to him on Tuesday.

"Hopefully I'll be back on the field soon. At least I'm able to get back into training now and get my fitness back."

Afeaki did nothing for 3 weeks and then was allowed to do some light running, but he started back into full training in the middle of last week, feeling no after-effects from the sessions.

However, he will not be able to play club rugby tomorrow for his North Harbour Marist club and will have to rely on two weeks' solid training to push for a place in the semifinal lineup.

"I need to get around taking some head knocks and doing a bit of contact again for me to be able to be eligible.

"We have quite physical trainings during the week so if I can get through them then maybe I'll have a chance, but if not it's probably not worth it and I'll be looking to try and contribute somewhere else really."

That means turning his attention to preparation for North Harbour's ITM Cup campaign and making his playing comeback there after possibly a club appearance.

"It's a terrible injury and you can't do anything about it really until it clears."

Afeaki returned straight to the Chiefs' starting front row for their May 25 round 14 clash with the Bulls on the strength of one club appearance after a much longer layoff for his broken arm, but on that occasion he was able to train right through.

He hopes he has retained some base fitness from all that training and that will put him on the front foot for a comeback.

This time he has missed only three matches so far because the injury came just before the three-week international window when no Super Rugby was played.

"But it's still very frustrating as I haven't played much rugby at all, especially after my first injury as well, but I still feel part of the team and it's good to be around the boys still," Afeaki said.

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