The 2017 Investec Super Rugby season is just a few weeks away; and Nepo Laulala is close to’ bursting at the seams’ with excitement to finally get back on the field.
The specialist prop was a big signing for the Chiefs in Super Rugby’s 2015/16 off-season; but he never made it onto the field for his new team. A major knee injury saw Laulala miss an entire year of rugby, but the confident South Auckland man says he ‘cannot wait’ to make his return to the field.
Laulala’s injury was one of many that the Chiefs had to contend with early in the season. His former Crusaders teammate, and fellow new Chief, Dominic Bird was also sidelined for many weeks with a big injury of his own. But Laulala never regretted his decision to travel North.
Nepo Laulala: Promise From The Start
Laulala’s career began in Canterbury when he joined the rugby academy in Christchurch. Strong work ethic and a desire to improve saw him earn a spot in Canterbury’s provincial side in the National Provincial Championship (NPC). Two years later, Laulala was called into the Crusaders for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Despite media reports that Laulala’s decision to leave the Crusaders franchise was due to a lack of selection as starter; Laulala signed with the Chiefs so he could be closer with his family at his childhood home of South Auckland. The 25-year old says that he valued his time working alongside the likes of Owen Franks in particular; a veteran All Black, that paid off ‘big time’ in terms of his development in his early days of Super Rugby.
Ironically, it was the Chiefs that Laulala came up against in his Super Rugby debut back in 2013. Prior to his big injury at the start of 2016, Laulala managed four Test caps for the All Blacks; making his debut in the special clash against Samoa in Apia. Jumping off the back of that, and with a new team to play for, great things were expected from the 25-year old.
Injury Forces Laulala To Reconsider Routine
Then the injury came. At a team training; Laulala tore three ligaments in his right knee. The ACL, PCL, and MCL were all badly damaged, requiring surgery that would see Laulala miss an entire year of rugby. Forced to watch from the sidelines, Laulala spent the year with family and began putting the pieces together for a fresh start in rugby.
“I just tried to do something else with my life really. I had the time to reconnect with family, do the things I didn’t have time for when I was playing, and I even found the time to hire a personal trainer.”
Good to be back with the crew, tough little hit out today in the hot sun but it's a starting point. pic.twitter.com/9Y35eGeSDT
— Liam Messam (@LiamMessam) January 31, 2017
Now back in training and preseason (pictured above with team mates Liam Messam (R) and Tim Nanai-Williams) one of the big focus areas for Laulala was to reconfigure how he prepares for games.
“It’s just the little things, but especially my warm up and routine going into games. I need to remember my ritual, all the little game plan details and making sure I am really clear on my role so that I am not second guessing myself.”
Keen to earn more game time under departing Chiefs coach Dave Rennie in 2017; Laulala will play his first game of rugby in over a year during the Chiefs preseason clash, against the Bulls in Brisbane this week. His injury in early 2016 was a freak accident, but a year later, Nepo Laulala finally gets his ‘green light’ and is set to go for the Chiefs.
“Main photo credit”