Black is back for Turbos
The Turbos’ match against Northland on Friday night can’t come soon enough for Otere Black.
The Manawatu and Blues first five-eighth has finally been given clearance from the knee injury which has keep him side-lined for nearly 11 months.
Black, 23, has been named on the bench for the match, one of the few changes to the Turbos’ 23 that lost to Canterbury last week.
Hurricanes prop Fraser Armstrong returns from an arm injury, taking the place of Sean Paranihi who was ruled out with concussion.
Wing James Tofa, who set up a try for Lifeimi Mafi last week, is promoted to the starting team, while the rotation at halfback continues with Kayne Hammington trading places with Jamie Booth.
There is a new face on the bench with flanker Adrian Wyrill set for his Turbos debut after joining the team on loan from Taranaki.
But it’s the return of Black that will have Turbos and Blues fans breathing a sigh of relief.
The man himself is chomping at the bit to get on the field.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It has been a pretty challenging process, but we have got there in the end. It has been an exciting week.”
At the start of the year there was hope he could return for the Blues late in the season, and the target had been week three with the Turbos.
But with a chance of re-injury if he rushed back, Black and his medical team took a slow and steady approach.
“The medical staff up [in Auckland] were not quite happy with where I was so I had to do a little more work than normal. It has paid off now. It is one of those injuries that you don’t want to rush.”
The injury being to his right leg helped the recovery process.
“I was lucky it was my kicking foot. I am not really planting on it. It took me a while to get kicking just because I did not have the power I had before. But that has come back now.”
With the green light to play, much of his focus has turned to mental preparation.
“For me I am just trying to get out and tick all the boxes to give myself the confidence to play. It has been a while since I have played so confidence is the key. I feel that my body is in a really good place and my knee is feeling really strong, but most of all I need to make sure my head is in the right place.”
He said he was looking forward to returning to the Blues next season and challenging for the starting No 10 jersey.
“There is a good bunch of boys going for [the starting spot] and we are all young too. We are all really keen to learn and get better.”
But before Super Rugby takes over, there are six more games remaining in the Turbos’ regular season remaining and Black is determined to prove he is still one of the most promising young playmakers in the country.
Turbos team to play Northland: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 James Tofa, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Sam Malcolm, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Brice Henderson, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri (c), 6 Liam Mitchell, 5 Brad Tucker, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Tim Cadwallader, 1 Fraser Armstrong. Reserve: 16 Sam Stewart, 17 Faalelai Sione, 18 Sione Asi, 19 Sam Slade, 20 Adrian Wyrill, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Otere Black, 23 Hamish Northcott.