Richard Kahui's return to the game has been delayed by yet another shoulder operation, but he hopes to be available for the Chiefs' first Super Rugby assignment of the season against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Kahui had a "clean-up'' operation on his shoulder on Friday, which had gone well, he said. It comes after the major reconstruction on the joint in June last year which ruled him out of all rugby.
"They took out some of the scar tissue to help loosen the shoulder up because it had been a little restricted,'' he said. "That all went really well. I'm getting much more movement now. I'm just waiting for the swelling to go down and hopefully will get into some contact later in the week.
"It will just depend on how much contact I can get and how confident I am in the coming weeks as to whether I play in that first game [on Friday, February 22] or play in the second game, but it's looking really positive.''
Kahui said the operation wasn't always planned - it had been hoped the shoulder would come right on its own - but it was better for the surgery to happen now rather than later.
The surgery means he will be unavailable for the Chiefs' third pre-season game against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka on Saturday.
It has been a frustrating time for 27-year-old Kahui. Out for eight months - his big operation last year was June 23, a date he remembers clearly - he watched his Chiefs team win the Super Rugby title for the first time, with his All Blacks career also stymied.
A midfielder for the Chiefs, the All Blacks would have used Kahui, who has played 17 tests, on the left wing, instead he watched as 22-year-old Julian Savea took his game to the next level.
"While last year was a real proud time to be a Chief, winning our first Super 15 title and being with a great group of men. There's a little feeling you have as a player who isn't playing. You don't quite feel a part of it. This year I'm looking forward to putting in a lot of input and playing some really good rugby. It would be nice to be on the field and win a title. At this time of year every time wants to win it and that's certainly how we feel. It would be nice to be a key contributor to the team.''
Kahui was present at Super Rugby's official launch at Auckland's Royal Akarana Yacht Club today.
Two players from each of the New Zealand franchises, along with NZRU chief executive Steve Tew, helped launch the new season.
Due to the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia this year, teams across the Tasman kick off a week earlier than the others. The season kicks off with a match between the Rebels and Force this Friday.
The New Zealand teams begin a week later with the Highlanders hosting the Chiefs. On Saturday, February 23, the Hurricanes host the Blues. The Crusaders have a bye.
Two notable differences for referees in New Zealand this season will be their pink strip, courtesy of a sponsorship deal with Pink Batts. They can also rely on more help from the television match official this season.
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