Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: ABs selection caps a tough season

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Nathan Harris' form for the Chiefs against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night clinched his place back in the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan Harris' form for the Chiefs against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night clinched his place back in the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

Every All Blacks squad announcement is a special occasion as new players show their nerves and emotions in the glare of television cameras.

Yesterday morning new cap and Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu was one. He talked about leaving his village in Fiji and his five older sisters to arrive at St Kentigern College as a terribly homesick boarder five years ago.

Despite the delight in watching other new caps Damian McKenzie, Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire struggling to wipe the smiles off their dials the selection I was most pleased with was that of Nathan Harris.

The Bay of Plenty hooker has fought back from a crippling ankle injury he suffered playing for the All Blacks against USA in Chicago in November 2014.

He missed last year's Rugby World Cup and had a long and at times difficult rehabilitation with unexpected setbacks delaying his return. But Harris always looked on the bright side and took each progress point as reason to celebrate.

"I remember when I was in my moon boot I was pretty grateful to be walking. Then little progressions day-to-day that were personal achievements for myself were rewarding," he told Bay of Plenty Times in July last year.

Harris played some games for the Steamers late last season and then was back with the Chiefs for the 2016 campaign.

But then he suffered a head injury at training in South Africa which meant another six weeks out of the team.

He had three games for his beloved Te Puke Sports to prove his fitness and after two games off the bench he started in the No2 jersey for the Chiefs.

Harris stood out with an eye-catching performance of mobile hooker play at its very best in Friday night's loss to the Waratahs in Sydney.

His speed around the park is matched only by All Black Dane Coles among hookers and his lineout throwing edges that of Coles for accuracy.

At the All Blacks squad naming yesterday head coach Steve Hansen said from his two starts "Nathan has been outstanding and has played how we know he can play".

There was certainly no surprise in the selection of Bay of Plenty's Sam Cane.

He is clearly the top openside flanker and deservedly so after a long apprenticeship as back-up to the great Richie McCaw.

In an ironic twist of fate, Cane inadvertently was the reason Harris ended up as a hooker in a story that goes back to Tauranga Boys' College.

Cane and NZ Secondary Schools player Carl Axtens arrived from Reporoa College for their final year at Tauranga Boys'.

Harris was established in the First XV after one season as a loose forward but Cane and Axtens took two of the three spots available so Harris switched to the front row.

The speed he used to outpace the cover defence to score in his last two games for the Chiefs stems from that loose forward background and as a beach sprinter for Omanu Surf Lifesaving Club.

Good luck to our Bay boys and the rest of the All Blacks in the three tests against Wales beginning at Eden Park on June 11.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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