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Kaino may yet offer more to NZ game

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Lynn McConnell     28 Jun 2018     Getty Images

He may be heading to Toulouse at the end of the Investec Super Rugby season after 81 Test matches, and at least the 137 caps for the Blues that he will achieve on Friday at Eden Park, but having benefited from what the game has given him, he wants to give something back.

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Speaking at his last Blues press conference on Wednesday, Kaino said: "I'd still like to be involved in the game in some capacity, I'm not too sure how much. I definitely wouldn't rule out coaching but she's a bit tough trying to coach my sons Under-16 team at the moment so going off that I'm not going too well but never say never.

"I'd love to be involved in the game somehow because the game has given me so much and so many opportunities so if I can give back in that way I'd love to," he said.

Kaino said he hadn't thought too much about the finality of his connection with the Blues because while Friday would be his last game at Eden Park there were still two other games to follow.

Highlights with the side would always be tempered by the fact that they didn't include a Super Rugby title but watching the side beat last year's British & Irish Lions would rank alongside his debut game for the side, ironically against the Reds in 2004, and his 100th game as special memories.

Pinpointing the reason why a championship win hadn't been possible was hard. It wasn't through lack of trying at any stage but he felt consistency of performance was an ingredient to success.

While the past hadn't been productive in terms of results he felt the future for the Blues was bright with structures in place to take the new generation of players to where the side should be.



"I'm quite confident that championship is not too far away," he said.

Throughout it all Kaino said it had never been a case of not wanting to turn up on Monday and get into a week of preparation.

"I've always enjoyed rocking up here and enjoying the company of the boys and make sure that we keep improving as a club and as a team," he said.

The 2018 season had not been the toughest season, but it had been frustrating.

"I don't think we've had a season when we've brought in so many new caps, young guys out of nowhere and they've been able to get a Blues cap and make a good fist out of their time here, Orbyn Leger has been one of them.

"He's been one of our main fixtures in our team this year and he's been playing really well," he said.

The issues the side was facing were not something the coaches could sort out alone. It was more the players and the side's leaders who needed to be able to take the team and run with it. A factor would be the young players in the side now taking the experiences they had and using them to turn the performances around.

Kaino acknowledged that when he first played for the side there were a lot of superstars still involved and coming into that environment had been a lot different to younger players now coming into a side that was struggling and down on the superstar numbers.

Those superstars of the earlier era had been around for much longer, the likes of Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Joe Rokocoko and Carlos Spencer

"Now if you look at Rieko Ioane, he's one of our superstars and he's only been around a couple of years."

Entertaining the idea of 15 years playing for the Blues was never on his time frame when starting out. He was more concentrated in the now and from game to game but he said given the longevity of his career he had been lucky to be able to have a professional career that lasted so long.
He said the two years he spent in Japan after the 2011 Rugby World Cup success had extended his career. His body had been feeling the effects of that campaign and it was only when he returned that he appreciated the mental break that experience had given him and physically it allowed him to build towards another successful Cup campaign in 2015.

Not being part of the All Blacks' 2018 campaign had been tough. It had been his first June break for a while and he had enjoyed sitting back and watching for a change.

"It was a little bit weird at first but the excitement I had is seeing the next crop of guys in my position and how many freaks there are who are going to be in that jersey for a long time," he said.

Missing out on selection had not been a surprise. He said he knew early on in the season that his form hadn't been good enough to gain selection for the All Blacks and that had given him time to get used to the idea.

"After last year I still believed in myself that I could get there but unfortunately my form wasn't good enough this year to be able to get in but seeing the calibre of guys coming through and how well they've been playing this year it's quite awesome to see that position is quite safe," he said.