All Blacks five-eighth Aaron Cruden can’t wait to play his first game for the Chiefs in over 10 months after recovering from a serious knee injury last year.
The 27-year-old missed the Rugby World Cup when he was injured against the Crusaders in April but now is just looking forward to tackling the Blues in Pukekohe on Friday night.
“I’m feeling really good obviously a few nerves floating around at the same time but a lot of excitement.
“I’ve sort of been counting down the days knowing that this game is going to be my first hit-out in a while,” Cruden said.
The 37-capped Test veteran’s confidence has been growing after successfully coming through the Chiefs’ full contact sessions and believes he’s ready to return to the field.
“Yeah it’s been really good just slowly building it up each week and I think the more you do it the more comfortable you become.
“The knee is feeling good in those contact sessions and now it just a case of getting the body adapted and getting use to taking that physical contact again.”
Coach Dave Rennie is keen to give his star player a big chunk of game time in their last hit-out before the start of the competition but Cruden is happy to play it by ear.
“I’ll just see how my body is – obviously I would love to get through 60 minutes but that depends on how the game is going, what the coaches are seeing, and I guess how my lungs are feeling,” he said.
Cruden is also philosophical with the Chiefs’ early season injury crisis, with Nepo Laulala and Mitchell Karpik already out for the season.
“It’s a bit of a shame when you pick up injuries in the pre-season and the depth of the squad is going to be tested, but the good news is that we have players who are willing to step up,” he said.