Chiefs five-eighth/fullback Gareth Anscombe hopes to miss just the first two matches of the Super Rugby season as he fights his way back from double shoulder surgery.
With All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden still on his off-season break until later this month and Anscombe sidelined by his rehabilitation programme after the operations, the Chiefs have been left a little thin in the key pivot position.
Add in the injuries suffered by fullbacks Tom Marshall (thumb) and Robbie Robinson (hip) and it is not surprising that the Chiefs are keen to have the versatile goal-kicking Anscombe return.
But he has seen the debilitating effect continuing shoulder injuries had on the career of Japan-based former Chief Richard Kahui, and is keen to ensure he gets his rehab right before returning to the playing field.
"They seem to be on the mend and getting a bit stronger," Anscombe said yesterday of his shoulders. "Still a lot of work to be done obviously, but going in the right direction."
But with the Chiefs medical team reluctant to give him a date of return this far out, Anscombe is also wary of putting pressure on himself by setting a firm target date.
"I've got a date in mind, I suppose, when I'd like to play but it's hard because you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself and rush it and injure yourself again, but I'm sure in training over the next few weeks I'll up the ante and I can pretty much get everything I need out of training to know whether I'm ready for a game."
Mid-March is where he is aiming and that would take him to the fifth-round (with byes in the first and fourth rounds, the third game for the Chiefs) fixture against the Stormers at Waikato Stadium on March 14. But his official aim is a little more vague, just hoping to be back for the Perth/South Africa tour after that.
Both shoulders had labrum tears and the left one was particularly bad, Anscombe unsure how he got through last season with it.
"It was really only just holding on through the final and I'm pretty sure it might have popped out even during the final."
Midfield back Bundee Aki has also had shoulder surgery and they share similar rehab programmes, but Anscombe admits having both shoulders operated on has made progress difficult over the last five months.
The first operation on his left shoulder came within two weeks of the August 3 final and the other shoulder was operated on 10 weeks later.
"You can't have them done at the same time, otherwise you're left stuck with both in casts, so I had to wait till I was out of the sling and could get a bit of movement out of it so when I had my right one done I could use the left a little.
"It does make things a little bit slower but we're not rushing things, I'm doing the right things in the gym and with the physios so hopefully I'll be back there as soon as I can.
"The movement's a lot better now and I can get to the top of my range so now it's about trying to get a bit of size on and trying to get a lot stronger because I've wasted away over the last six months."
So far visits back to the surgeon have been positive and he hopes to get the green light to return to full training at the start of next month.
- Waikato Times
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