Chiefs outside back Sean Wainui has made a clear and obvious statement of intent throughout 2020’s mixed year of rugby, and it’s something that will serve the proud Maori well as his journey continues.
The 24-year old is in career-best form and has flicked the switch in 2020 after a few seasons going through the motions.
Back in January, Wainui talked of cementing his spot on the wing but strong performances from the likes of Shaun Stevenson and the ever-improving talents of Solomon Alaimalo and Etanie Nanai-Seturo made one thing crystal clear.
Hard work at each and every training session would be required in order to get the starts over his teammates, but that was only the first piece of the puzzle for Wainui. When getting that precious game time, especially when in the starting XV, making things happen would require a certain amount of intent with the ball in hand.
So far in Super Rugby Aotearoa, Wainui has certainly shown that attribute and it has resulted in strong performances out on the right-wing.
“I’m really going hard, this year I’m a lot fitter and a bit faster so I’ve found more energy around the park and I’m really enjoying the game time,” Wainui told RugbyPass.
Down to around 101kg, a mere four kilos down from his previous weight, the extra energy Wainui has in the tank has helped with confidence for the 24-year old, knowing his body can put in the hard yards and spark counter attacks with decent pace deeper into matches.
On the park, the intent from Wainui is clearly noticeable, but it wasn’t always this way.
In previous seasons, Wainui would make quick decisions to shift the ball on and play a more supportive role, whereas Super Rugby Aotearoa has seen Wainui attack the line and carry hard on far more occasions, often spotting gaps and rarely failing to exploit the opportunity.
“I’m trying to get in with Damian and run off him, but it’s also about that real game intensity when I come into to the game I have a clear mind, run hard and always try and do the right thing for the team.”
As a unit, the Chiefs lead Super Rugby Aotearoa in carries (544) and Wainui finds himself in the top three of his teammates in this category, beaten only by Damian McKenzie and the ever-impressive loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula.
For Wainui, each day is both an opportunity and a challenge. With a stacked backline of talented players who are all fit and eager to impress in the four games left, Wainui’s big goal is to remain firmly in the starting role.
“We’ve got a lot of outside back talent here and the competition is awesome. Every training I come to I want to do the best I can because you don’t know if you’ll get the start each week but every day I come in and work had to ensure I’m cementing my spot so it’s really made me improve and get more competitive.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 15, 2020
With Wainui, it’s also all about balance. A proud father of young baby boy Kawarika, the 24-year old has been noticeably more well-rounded in the Chiefs camp since having to devote more time to fatherhood, but it’s the clarity about taking his game to the next level which is showing dividends in his professional role.
Feedback from Chiefs coach Warren Gatland has been positive with praise of Wainui’s work rate while putting a spotlight on game intensity and ensuring the 24-year old comes into each match with a clear mind.
For the here and now, Wainui is excelling with the Chiefs after a couple of years getting to grips with an ever-changing environment after making his debut for the Waikato-based franchise in 2018, ironically against his former team, the Crusaders.
In terms of what’s next for the 24-year old of proud Maori heritage, getting the attention of All Blacks coach Ian Foster isn’t the primary aim, but pulling on the black jersey is certainly a goal to tick off down the line.
“Obviously, for every New Zealand kid, that’s the dream. I’ve always had that in the back of my mind but right now I’m taking it week by week to do the best I can and try to get on the field for the Chiefs each week”.
If Wainui continues to perform like he is, the All Blacks outside back woes could just increase for national selectors.
All that’s left for now is to get the Chiefs a win in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
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