Rugby: Beaver back with the Chiefs and feeling the burn

By Kris Shannon

Stephen Donald felt the pressure when kicking a late conversion against the Force. Photo / Getty
Stephen Donald felt the pressure when kicking a late conversion against the Force. Photo / Getty

It wasn't quite a kick to clinch the World Cup but Stephen Donald still felt plenty of pressure when he stepped to the tee last night.

Sure, the Chiefs were already 40 points to the good and, yes, his conversion attempt was the last act of the game. But a combination of an adoring crowd and some troublesome teammates raised the difficulty level in Donald's return to Super Rugby.

"It's a bit different when they start chanting your name and you're trying to kick," he laughed. "But what was worse was all the boys were about five metres behind me and trying to mock me behind my back.

"I don't think they realised but I was under a bit of pressure on that one."

But Donald, as he did five years ago at Eden Park, remained composed to split the uprights and cap a night that had once felt some way off for the 32-year-old.

Having headed offshore following his World Cup heroics, Donald experienced the downswing that would inevitably arrive after such a high. But with an eye on adding to his 85 Chiefs caps, the first five set about overcoming yet another hurdle at the tail-end of an eventful career.

"When you go overseas, it's only natural you relax a wee bit and you probably don't put in as much effort," he said. "I knew I had to make a lot of sacrifices to get back."

While 12 minutes last night made those sacrifices worthwhile, Donald's cameo was only the culmination of various contributions he has made since the Chiefs gathered late last year.

"He plays a big part in our attack and he's done a great job in that regard," said coach Dave Rennie. "He's a bloody good man and our club captain, so he's got a bit of role in the clubrooms. He's been fantastic and it's obviously great for him to play his first game back at this stadium."

That was an occasion Donald had long envisaged and meant there were "a few nerves floating around" while awaiting his introduction. There was no mistaking when it came, greeted with the loudest ovation of the evening and one appreciated by the veteran.

"It's a great stadium and I'd love to say I didn't notice it but..." Donald smiled. "It was pretty cool and I was just proud to be back out there."

- NZ Herald

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