Brad Shields believes the Hurricanes have more championship runs left in them
Ask Brad Shields about losing to the Lions in Johannesburg and his answer takes you back a couple of years.
We haven't heard a lot from the Hurricanes since their Super Rugby title defence ended in a 44-29 defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park. It marked a disappointing conclusion to a campaign in which Shields and company looked unbeatable some nights and decidedly average on others.
Not all season-ending defeats are created equal, though.
You might want to talk Johannesburg but Shields - and he isn't the only Hurricane who's referenced it recently - instinctively thinks of the 21-14 loss to the Highlanders in the 2015 grand final at Westpac Stadium. That one hurt greatly then and it still smarts now.
"You probably take it back to that final against the Highlanders, where we didn't play our best," Shields said, after being unveiled as Wellington's captain for the upcoming provincial season.
"We actually played well in the first half [against the Highlanders] apart from that last five minutes. But we didn't play our best rugby in that game and it's disappointing because, when you do that in semifinals and finals, your season's gone.
"We hit a wall [in Johannesburg]. Whether that was over-training during the week or the fact we'd only been there a week, I don't know. Usually we're used to it, so you can't use it as an excuse.
"It's tough over there, don't get me wrong. The altitude is different, the heat is different, playing at 2.30 [pm] in Johannesburg is different from playing from playing in Wellington.
"But it was what it was. We didn't adjust in that second half, as you saw. We hit the wall."
Teams often have a championship window. It's hard to stay "up" for years on end and to continually contend for titles. The Hurricanes have been runners-up, champions and then semifinalists over the last three seasons and at some point it would be natural for them to come back to the pack.
The old Hurricanes might've done that, Shields said. But that was before "Hammer [Mark Hammett] put his foot down and changed things".
Hammett coaches down at the Highlanders these days but the values he put in place haven't changed a great deal in the years since Chris Boyd and John Plumtree took charge.
"Our expectation now is finals rugby. We want to compete every year and whether you're a kid fresh out of school or you've been around for 10 years, that's our standard and that's the expectation," Shields said.
"You look at OBU [Old Boys-University] for example, in [Wellington] club rugby. The last few years they've been extremely strong. They haven't had the well-known names some other clubs have had, but they've competed because their culture's good, the way they play is good, they're a fit team and it just looks like they're a good team to be part of.
"So that's what we're creating, and I think we have created, at the Hurricanes. So when guys do leave like myself and or Beaudy [Barrett] or TJ [Perenara] - when it's time for us to move on - we've got guys ready to step up and fill those shoes."
Shields is contracted until the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season and will have various options to consider after that. Between now and then, the loose forward is exceptionally keen to get Wellington promoted out of provincial rugby's champion ship division.