Tawera Kerr-Barlow is looking to put his seal on the Chiefs No.9 jersey after missing all of the last Super Rugby season to recover from a serious knee injury.
The 25-year-old halfback recovered in time to help the All Blacks defend their Rugby World Cup title in England last year after being out of the game for nine months.
He moved ahead of Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara in the eyes of the selectors, coming off the bench in three out of four pool games and also making late appearances in place of Aaron Smith in the quarter-final against France and final against Australia.
However, he will face a strong challenge from Brad Weber and Augustine Pulu for game time at the Chiefs, with both men also playing All Blacks Tests over the last years.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is no stranger to selecting players based on form rather than reputation and that’s just the way Kerr-Barlow would have it.
“Competition is really healthy and I’m really looking forward to battling it out over the season,” Kerr-Barlow said.
“That’s how a team should be picked. I can only control my performance on the field and everything else will fall into place.”
Kerr-Barlow feels his knee has fully recovered.
He played the World Cup with heavy strapping but his physiotherapist has given him the all-clear to play and train without it.
“I’m feeling really confident on it now. I still have to do all my rehab and stretching. That’s going to be part of it for the rest of my career,” he said.
The 20-Test All Black has clocked up 56 caps and won two Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs since making his debut in 2011.
He believes they can win a third title despite having undergone a raft of personnel changes.
“It’s a good opportunity for people coming in to try and stamp their mark also, giving our club a fresh start,” he said.