Taleni Seu would have to be one of the unluckiest men in New Zealand rugby right now.
Seu debuted for Auckland in 2015 after being whistled up to the squad as an injury replacement. The then-21-year-old made eight appearances in Auckland’s second-place finish.
Dave Rennie liked what he saw of Seu and promptly snapped him up for the Chiefs for 2016.
Seu’s now been playing professional rugby for four years but has managed just 67 appearances in that timeframe. That means he’s played in just two thirds of the games he could have over that period.
That’s not because Seu’s simply not getting selected, however. Rather, it’s because he’s had a torrid run of injuries.
Seu’s first season in Super Rugby was a roaring success, with the lock-cum-flanker making appearances in every game of the Chiefs’ 2016 campaign. Seu was invalidated part way through 2017 due to a broken arm, missed over half of 2018 due to a spine fracture, and then spent the latter half of this year on the sidelines due to a shoulder dislocation.
The latest injury will unfortunately keep Seu out of Waikato’s campaign for the year – which is a major disappointment, given it will be his first season with the province.
“It’s coming along well,” Seu said of his shoulder at the recent Mitre 10 Cup launch.
“It’s been about four months. I had surgery two months after I’d done it. I’ll be back playing in December.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be back to play Mitre 10 Cup but I’m just trying to enjoy my time at Waikato, add what I can add and help out where I can help out.”
Seu has a lot to offer to a fast progressing Waikato team and will bring with him the experience of winning a Premiership with Auckland last season – despite only being fit for and playing the knockout matches of the Mitre 10 Cup campaign.
“I guess I’m just enjoying the rugby. Coming from Auckland, we won it last year, hopefully I can bring some of the traits that we had up there with me,” said Seu.
“(Auckland and Waikato have) pretty different environments, but I can feel the same energy, the same attitude from players.”
Waikato had a reasonably good season themselves last year, winning the Championship and gaining promotion back into the top flight. They’ll miss last season’s top try-scorer, Sevu Reece, for at least the early stages of the competition due to his selection in the national side, but there’s still plenty of firepower in the team.
“From the look on his face, you could just see it (hurt so much). And that’s exactly how I felt. You need someone to hold onto you because it’s too painful.”
Seu spent the first two months of his dislocate rehabbing the injury before ultimately settling on surgery, which is why the recovery time has been so extensive.
Instead of getting out onto the field, Seu has had to rely on ways to keep himself occupied.
“Things like this (planting trees at Koru School in south Auckland), makes me happy, keeps me occupied. I enjoy this stuff.
“I sort of wanted to get into some coaching stuff. That’s keeping me occupied as well. I’ve done some stuff with the Harlequins in Waikato. Just helping out with Waikato on some defence stuff. If I can develop that, and grow, who knows.”
Seu is in a complicated situation looking forward to the future as 2019 was his last year contracted to the Chiefs.
“I’m still looking for something, hopefully. If something comes off shore than that’ll be it. At the moment I’m just trying to get back on the field.”
Hopefully a new contract with the Chiefs beckons, given the strong performances that Seu has put in for the franchise over the last few years. A season overseas could be on the cards for Seu otherwise, but you get the feeling that the versatile backrower would be happiest sticking around in Hamilton.
With Warren Gatland returning home for 2020, the signs are looking good for next year.
“A new coach at the Chiefs is exciting. Even if you look at this year, we weren’t doing too well but still made the quarters.”
Seu won’t be able to advance his cause any further on the field this year, but maybe his off-field coaching and assistance will help him grow even further as a player.
Whatever happens, one team is going to end up with an experienced head who can offer as much on the pitch as he can off it.
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