Reece reaping the benefits of a strong off-season

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Having marked his return with a superb try in the corner against the Highlanders in last week's opening game, Reece made an early statement of his class after some disappointments last year.

 

Reece said he felt after his stellar season in 2019, he found last year much tougher with opposing defences up quickly in front of him to deny him space and time. It proved so effective it had reduced the number of times he had received the ball with opportunities.

 

That had forced him to look for other chances but it increased the opportunity for silly mistakes by looking too hard and he had pushed things too much.

 

"At the end of last year I had to go back into my books and put a really good plan in place of how I want this year to turn out for me and I'm pretty sure I'm clear with what I want to achieve this year," he said.

 

An early test will come on Sunday when he lines up against former All Black Julian Savea. He was a player Reece grew up watching and he was excited to be going out against him.

 

"He's a massive threat all-round. We all know what he could do with ball in hand. You've got to be prepared.

 

"He's tall and he's big and strong, it's everything you need and it's just having to come up with a way to try and stop that, or slow it down but I have a few tricks in my head that could help, fingers crossed," he said.

 

 

Loose forward Cullen Grace said last week's opening game had been good to be back playing rugby again after what appeared a long break. While he had made the All Blacks for the Tri Nations, his opportunities were limited and it had seemed a long time since he played.

 

He had met the coaching staffs requirement of bulking up from his 102kg last year and he felt good carrying an extra 5kg in Dunedin.

 

"It takes time but I'm pretty happy with where I'm starting to get to," he said. He didn't want to put on too much more as he was concerned it might affect his ability to range out wide.

 

"I don't want to put on too much weight, I'd end up in the front row," he said.

 

Playing at No8 was a new position for him at Super Rugby level, although he had played in the position, among others, at high school level. But he was enjoying his role with the Crusaders and appreciated the help he was getting from the more experienced members of the pack, especially fellow No8 Whetukamokamo Douglas.

 

"There's always stuff to learn when you're going into new positions but I'm enjoying it," he said.

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