It was a case of history repeating itself for Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald when his phone rang while he was out fishing on the Manukau Harbour this week.

He was making the most of the summer weather with all thoughts of the upcoming Super Rugby season buried away.

But like the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup, the Chiefs needed help and put the call out for a late replacement.

Their four contracted No10 options Damian McKenzie, Marty McKenzie, Jack Debreczeni and Tiaan Falcon were all unavailable due to injury. Midfielder Orbyn Leger had been called in from the wider squad to man the starting role but, without back-up, the Chiefs needed a hero.

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And like he did in 2011, Donald came to the rescue. With more than 100 Super Rugby caps already to his name for the Chiefs, the 35-year-old was brought in for the full 2019 campaign after Falcon suffered a season-ending injury.

Joining the team on Monday, Donald had just four days before the Chiefs season-opener against the Highlanders in which he played 20 minutes off the bench at fullback in a losing effort.

"Only coming in on Monday, it's not ideal preparation for the Super Rugby season, but hopefully I get better and get a few Ks in the legs and stuff like that," he said after the game.

"It's great to be back here, and obviously a hell of a shock to the system considering where I think my headspace was two weeks ago – it certainly wasn't about round one here at Waikato Stadium."

Donald was greeted with loud cheers from the crowd at Waikato Stadium, though his slick new haircut became a talking point among many fans.

After getting advice from some of the younger members of the team on the best barber around, his new look provided some amusement for teammates.

"Unfortunately it looks like now I'm a Peaky Blinder," Donald said. "The boys enjoyed that when I unveiled it. Obviously just trying to keep up with the young kids these days and yeah, you've got to be careful what you ask for at the barber."