Kaino seek­ing to go out of game on right note

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - By Pa­trick McKendry

Coach Steve Hansen’s state­ment be­fore to­day’s test against South Africa that Jerome Kaino’s days as an All Black aren’t over yet wouldn’t have told the loose for­ward any­thing he didn’t know. But it is a sign for every­one else that he is on the brink of over­com­ing another chal­lenge — and he’s had a few.

The 34-year-old Kaino is near­ing the end of his rugby ca­reer and had prob­a­bly been over­taken by Liam Squire (and some would say Vaea Fi­fita) be­fore leav­ing Syd­ney on the morn­ing of the test against the Wal­la­bies two months ago to at­tend to his fam­ily af­ter a lurid story in one of the tabloids across the Ditch.

His last test was the draw against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons and he wasn’t re­quired for this morn­ing’s test against the Spring­boks in Cape Town. But Hansen has hinted strongly that he will be in­volved in the third Bledis­loe Cup test against Aus­tralia in Bris­bane in a fort­night and next month’s tour to Europe.

“He’ll get an op­por­tu­nity, he just has to wait,” Hansen said. “Liam Squire has played out­stand­ing. We left him at home to give him a rest and freshen him up for this game so it would be point­less just to chuck JK in. There’s a test match in a cou­ple of weeks and quite a few games on the north­ern tour, so JK will get op­por­tu­ni­ties in those games at some point.”

The 81-test vet­eran de­serves to go out on his own terms be­cause while he de­vel­oped into a de­fen­sive pow­er­house who won two World Cups (and ex­celled in both tour­na­ments), he has not al­ways had it easy. He had an un­cer­tain start to his ca­reer, mak­ing his start­ing de­but against Ire­land at Eden Park in 2006 and he did not play another test un­til ex­actly two years later — against Eng­land in Welling­ton. Straight af­ter that test in Auck­land, he trav­elled down the mo­tor­way to his par­ents’ house in Pa­pakura, where he still lived, be­liev­ing he wouldn’t play another test. Walk­ing into the lounge and see­ing the faces of his fa­ther and un­cles be­fore the tele­vi­sion, he felt they be­lieved the same thing.

Kaino per­se­vered, though, and luck­ily for him, the chances kept com­ing. The same ap­pears to be on the hori­zon for him now.

All Blacks coach Gra­ham Henry kept the faith de­spite a drink driv­ing con­vic­tion in 2008 — just as he was at­tempt­ing to es­tab­lish him­self at the top level again — which threat­ened to turn his life up­side down and forced him to ex­am­ine his re­la­tion­ship with al­co­hol.

Af­ter a big night out with a mate, Kaino was be­hind the wheel the next morn­ing when he failed to see a car stop­ping at a pedes­trian cross­ing and hit it.

He blew 834 mi­cro­grams of al­co­hol per litre of breath — the le­gal limit is 400.

Kaino was fined, lost his li­cence for six months and was or­dered to un­dergo coun­selling. Af­ter his day in court, he had to face the All Blacks coaches.

He wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy My Story: “He [Henry] didn’t blow me up but he and the coaches were pretty dis­ap­pointed that I was drink­ing on a week off when I should have been fo­cus­ing on pre­par­ing for the Spring­boks, the cur­rent world cham­pi­ons and one of our tough­est ri­vals. “And as for get­ting in the car the morn­ing af­ter a big night, well, that speaks for it­self. I could tell when I looked into Wayne Smith’s eyes that I had re­ally let him down be­cause he and the other coaches had stuck their necks out to pick me that year, and that was how I re­paid them. “Their main con­cern rugby-wise was if I was pre­par­ing to play the Spring­boks — and I would prob­a­bly only get one crack at it — why was I drink­ing at 5 o’clock in the morn­ing? They couldn’t get their heads around it and I had no an­swer to it.”

As a man with gen­uine life ex­pe­ri­ence, Kaino still has plenty to of­fer an All Black team in a re­build­ing phase. For­tu­nately for him, that is likely to soon hap­pen on the pitch.

HGo to nzher­ald.co.nz for all the re­ac­tion from this morn­ing’s All Blacks test in Cape Town

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