Douglas soaking up his chances

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Lynn McConnell     28 Feb 2017     Getty Images

That would have shown them that he was Waikato's captain in the Mitre 10 Cup last year and that he had been around and about the provincial scene for the previous few years.

There was an invitation to play for the Maori All Blacks last year but no Investec Super Rugby contract, and only an expression of interest from new Crusaders coach Scott Robertson that he was watching him.

But impressive pre-season work once joining the Crusaders in mid-December saw Douglas named in the first side, and his link with Crusaders supporters was assured when he scored a key try during the game, courtesy of a back-hand pass from fullback Israel Dagg.

Douglas said it felt great to start in the opening game of the season. He had been given a good welcome by local fans and he really enjoyed the occasion.

Douglas said he was called into the squad when All Blacks captain Kieran Read injured his wrist during the northern tour in November and they needed injury cover.

"I came down pretty much as soon as I could wrap work up and wanted to see how I went in the pre-season and then it has just carried on to my debut," he said.

There was something of a 'fight-for-your-spot' mentality while also soaking up the experience, he said.

The preparation had been the longest he had experienced and running every day to get the body into the best shape meant the body went through a lot of changes and it was a case of adapting every week and getting the recovery right. It was also not only learning tactical and technical stuff on the field but also how to look after the body.

Stepping up from Mitre 10 Cup had shown him the game was quicker and more physical and that was most obvious at lineout time when the movements on the ground and getting in the air was a split-second quicker and he had to trust his instincts more.

It was also a case of trusting the work that had been practised during the week leading into the game.

He said the late withdrawal of flanker Matt Todd, who had a leg infection, saw a smooth transition. The side was already in a game mindset and it had not been disruptive.

While Read would be back in April after recovering from his injury, Douglas was committed to soaking up as much as he could in the interim both from Read and from the coaches around him.

He said it was a big help having so many Test players in the pack in front of him and the experience of team-mates around him was supportive.

"I put pressure on myself to just do my job," he said.