An injury that sidelined Israel Dagg for six months may have a silver lining.
The 49-Test All Black admits his love for the game was on the wane when he suffered a dislocated shoulder injury in September playing for Hawke’s Bay – having missed the cut for the World Cup squad.
The fullback returned to action last month and the 27-year-old’s sparkling form since has helped the Crusaders to the top of the the New Zealand Super Rugby conference.
“You play this game for six years and it can be a bit repetitive and you kind of can just get going day to day,” Dagg said.
“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t lose a bit of love for the game – I lost a little bit.”
But he says the enforced lay-off has rekindled his passion for the game and reinvigorated his play.
“You have a break, you have a holiday – it’s like going to school again.
“I’m really exited just to play some footy again and play with these guys.
“It’s Toddy’s (coach Todd Blackadder) last year, everyone’s in a good mood and obviously winning helps.”
The Crusaders have surged to the top of the standings on the back of eight consecutive wins, but know their title aspirations will receive a stern examination against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
“These are the games you want to play, you want to test yourself against the best,” said Dagg.
“We’re under no illusions, we know this is going to be a big test and this test has come at a good time.”
Dagg is anticipating being peppered by high balls after the Highlanders derailed the Chiefs last week on the back of a strong kicking game
“It’s like an exam at school. It’s probably the biggest test for me in a long time.”
Blackadder says the Highlanders’ less structured style of play will provide them a few headaches and they’ll need to stay on their toes to cope with their quick plays.
“We’re going to have to play a complete and utter game of football to stay with these guys,” he said.