Maori All Black Shaun Stevenson says he will need to take his Super Rugby game to the next level in order to remain a front runner in a crowded Chiefs' backline.
Stevenson is certainly not a newbie in the Chiefs' environment. In fact, the 23-year-old outside back has been on the scene since 2016 after making his debut against the Crusaders and has admittedly enjoyed a mixed go of things since.
Having played well in most games, Stevenson has also been left out a few match day sides completely.
The opening month of Super Rugby has so far been another mixed bag. Being free of injury but unable to crack a regular starting role has proved tough for Stevenson in terms of building good form.
"There is a lot of competition, I've only got a couple of games early on this year so it's hard trying to get a bit of form but you've got to make do and go from there," Stevenson said.
Stevenson still gets the chance to play regular rugby. A fortnight ago, he was one of the more high-profile players named to play for a Waikato XV side in the curtain raiser for the Brumbies match and had his usual Chiefs teammates watching from the sideline.
But a regular starting spot in the Chiefs' backline is where Stevenson really wants to be in this, perhaps, the year most crucial for him to impress as a new World Cup cycle begins.
A player who is dangerous when given space, Stevenson enjoys time on the ball but wants to sharpen up on his leadership role and aims to use his voice more around the team.
"I enjoy the attacking side of things and getting my hands on the ball but I've been in the Chiefs for a while so I need to be a big voice, both from the outside and also when playing in that back three".
Known for his Happy Gilmore Shooter McGavin post-try celebrations, Stevenson first caught the eye of rugby fans with his impressive outings for Waikato in Mitre 10 Cup before returning to North Harbour where he has played since 2017.
The challenge from here on out is about enjoying his rugby, understanding how important the chances to impress are when they come but doing it all with a smile on his face.
"Rugby is always a challenging game and the mental side of things is crucial but you've also got to play in the moment and do each task as it comes. I'm enjoying myself, it's a good environment so I try to come in every day with a smile on my face."
Time is certainly on his side, Stevenson is contracted with the Chiefs until 2023.
• Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton