All of New Zealand's uncapped Super Rugby first-fives may have allowed themselves to look ahead at what's coming at the end of the season following Damian McKenzie's knee injury which will rule him out of the Rugby World Cup, even if it was just for a moment.

Otere Black was probably no different, but the Blues No10 can both sympathise and empathise with McKenzie, a good friend. Because when the diagnosis came through that the little Chiefs playmaker had torn his ACL when attempting to tackle Black at Waikato Stadium last weekend, Black knew exactly what was coming for him.

"It's very sad news for him," Black told the Weekend Herald. "I know first-hand what he's going through because I did the exact-same injury – I did my ACL too. I really feel for him. He's an outstanding player and will be very much missed; not just for the Chiefs, but just for everyone watching. The way he plays is very exciting … but I'm sure he'll bounce back.

"It's a tough process to go through – not just physically but also mentally because it's such a big injury and it sets you back a bit. But it makes you a better and stronger player mentally, I think. You probably have to go through that at some stage in your career and unfortunately for him it's come at a bad time."


Black, 23, injured his knee in the final Mitre 10 Cup round of 2017. He had just signed for the Blues, so he arrived in Auckland injured and didn't get on the field at all for his franchise last year. It took nearly 11 months for the knee to repair, and he had a few setbacks along the way, including a quadriceps problem.

But come back he did. He played in Manawatu's final four games of last year, made the New Zealand Māori squad for their South America tour and played all three matches on that.

Now, in the absence of the injured Stephen Perofeta, Black is the incumbent No10 at the Blues and probably the front-runner should the All Blacks wish to develop another first-five before the World Cup, which they almost certainly will.

Otere Black of the Blues. Photo / Getty
Otere Black of the Blues. Photo / Getty

Arriving in Auckland to rehabilitate a long-term injury rather than play was not easy for Black, but he surrounded himself with supportive people and had two big allies in the form of Blues lock Scott Scrafton and loose forward Jimmy Tupou – both of whom suffered ACL injuries last year. All three are now back on the field.

Black is ignoring the All Blacks stuff for the moment, knowing that he needs to keep driving the Blues as they seek to rediscover their winning form after their defeat to the Chiefs, starting with the Highlanders in Dunedin tonight. The Blues went into the weekend in sixth place, but with the Jaguares, Stormers, Lions and Chiefs and Waratahs all within four competition points, retaining a playoff place will not be easy.

"It's not something I've read into too much," Black said of his All Blacks prospects. "I'm just concentrating on what I need to do. We've been playing some pretty good footy over the last few weeks. For me it's just being consistent – turning up week-in and week-out and putting in performances that make the team win. That's the biggest thing.

"I feel I have grown a lot as a player and as a person as well, but there's always something to improve on. There's still a long way to go."

After making his Super Rugby debut as Beauden Barrett's back-up at the Hurricanes in 2015, Black scored his first try at this level against the Stormers at Eden Park recently when a Sonny Bill Williams offload put Black over between the posts.


It has been a long time coming. The Blues have a tradition that first-time try scorers receive a commemorative hat – quickly swiped by Black's dad - and say a few words afterwards, and they could be prescient as far as his All Blacks hope are concerned.

"When you score the try you have to explain later in the changing room how it worked," Black said. "I praised the big boys – obviously they provided a big scrum and Sonny did what he usually does and got his arms free.

"I was in the right place at the right time, really."