Rugby: Pulu makes 15s return after sevens disappointment

By Campbell Burnes

Augustine Pulu.
Augustine Pulu.

August Pulu will suit up this Sunday for his first 15s run in over 14 months.

The 26-year-old Counties Manukau halfback has had to quickly 'park' his disappointment after the Rio Olympics to refocus on helping out the province he last played for in 2014. His last match for the Chiefs was in June 2015.

Since that season he has suffered two broken arms, shown real promise at sevens and then endured the heartache of seeing the All Blacks Sevens tumble out of medal contention on the biggest stage just a fortnight ago. Pulu was actually one of the better performers and cannot be tarred with the shock loss to Japan as he was not used.

"It just wasn't our day, to be honest. We came in having done everything we could, but unfortunately we didn't get the results," he says.

"Sevens is not like 15s. You can have the better team and not always win. Your victory might depend on the bounce of the ball and the referee's call. It's very competitive now."

Despite the disappointment, Pulu says he loved the unique Olympics atmosphere.

"The food hall was outstanding, but it didn't really hit me until I was back in New Zealand that I was there with all the best athletes in the world. It was amazing to be part of that group."

One can imagine that the sevens team would have hooked into all the food after their event, judging by the amount of burgers lined up for Eric Murray and friends after their rowing exertions were done.

Now Pulu, along with fellow All Blacks Sevens teammate Sione Molia, are switching their focus to the Bay of Plenty Steamers back at their Pukekohe home. The Steelers tackled well enough but didn't get their attack right in the 20-17 crossover loss to North Harbour last Thursday. Pulu will need to provide spark and leadership as co-captain in his 58th game for the union.

He might have to school himself up on the breakdown trial laws, where he admits it looks "messy" at the moment, but he will not have any trouble re-integrating into the Steelers group.

"Being here is just like being at home. I love this club and keen to get back into the 15s groove again," Pulu says.

Crusaders wing Sione Fifita is also back in the mix, meaning Sam Vaka should be able to slot back into his preferred No 13 position. Hooker Hika Elliot, last with the union in 2013, should also be good to go, despite a hiccup with an ankle niggle on Monday. On the debit side, coach Darryl Suasua will need to think hard about his No 7 options after Fotu Lokotui broke his leg against North Harbour. Moving captain Jimmy Tupou to blindside and switching Jordan Taufua to the openside is one permutation.

Sunday's game kicks off at 4.35pm.

- NZ Herald

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