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TJ Perenara shares honest insight into injury after return to All Blacks squad

By Finn Morton
TJ Perenara and Pasilio Tosi walk into the room after being named in the All Blacks squad during the New Zealand All Blacks International Test Squad Announcement at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre on June 24, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

There was a time when All Black TJ Perenara thought “I might not play this game again.” Perenara ruptured his Achilles in the dying stages of a dramatic draw with England in 2022 which set the halfback on a journey along a tough road back to the national team.

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Perenara missed the entire 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season with the Hurricanes before returning in a pre-season clash with Moana Pasifika this year. That brought an end to a more than 450-day wait for the 80-Test veteran.

Then, after coming off the bench in three of his first four regular-season appearances, the scrumhalf began a starting team regular following an unfortunate injury to superstar Cam Roigard. Perenara went on to start eight of the next nine matches for the Canes.

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It was during those performances in the No. 9 jersey that All Blacks fans almost unanimously began to consider Perenara a genuine Test candidate once again. On Monday night, that prediction from many came true.

More than 580 days after being helped from the field at Twickenham, Perenara was officially back with the All Blacks. The first squad of the Scott Robertson era was announced, with Perenara named as one of three halfbacks along with Finlay Christie and Cortez Ratima.

It was a moment Perenara almost always believed was going to happen, but there was a moment when doubt began to creep in. The All Black suffered some setbacks, including a second surgery which kept him on the sidelines for even longer.

“I’m going to say I was 99 per cent sure I would put myself in a position to be an All Black again,” Perenara told Newshub. “I didn’t know if I would make it, because it’s not my decision, but I thought I would play good enough rugby to do it.

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“After the second surgery and three months into the rehab, things just weren’t progressing how I wanted them to or the way we thought they would, and I thought I might not be back. Within a week or so after that, things started to progress – I got some really good strength going and my ability to move started to increase.

“For the most part, I believe it, but there was that one little moment when I thought I might not play this game again.”

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Folau Fakatava, Noah Hotham and the injured Cam Roigard are among the quality players who haven’t been named in the first squad of the year. The All Blacks have genuine depth at halfback but Perenara’s form just couldn’t be denied.

After coming off the bench in rounds three and four, Perenara scored a try in the Hurricanes’ next match against the Melbourne Rebels. That was the No.9’s first start of the season, and it was also the beginning of a stunning try-scoring run.

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Perenara scored a try off the pine the following week against the Highlanders and backed that up with a double in the hard-fought win over the Chiefs in Wellington. Four tries in three matches is always going to capture headlines and leave fans talking.

By the end of the season, Perenara had made history by becoming the outright all-time top try scorer in Super Rugby history. But beyond that feat, Perenara had stood out by showing grace, skill and poise during the Hurricanes’ run to the semi-finals.

“I believe that chapter is now closed, getting here,” Perenara explained. “It was long and there were hard parts to it, but it’s a new chapter – it’s about what’s next for me in this jersey.

“I want to be a great All Black and I want to have an impact on winning in this environment, and that means there’s a lot of hard work still to come. I’m excited by that, I want to work as hard as I can to be the greatest All Black I can.

“Yes, there’s some cool stuff I’ve learnt from that experience, but the next chapter starts.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

6 Comments
m
monty 23 days ago

For the most part Christie around the ruck base is for me way too slow although he’s to be credited for his mental and physical toughness. Arron smith was so superior with the recycled ball and it was shifted away from the base with lightening speed. TJ, I felt, started to develop a somewhat attitude of descent toward opposition and the ref. I hope he doesn’t carry this on in the upcoming tests ahead. A shame about Roigard but thems are the unfortunate breaks but it gave everyone an opportunity to see how Ratima shone and I was impressed plus his inclusion is a great choice by the selectors.

B
B.J. Spratt 23 days ago

Foster was a below average All Black coach, working under a very poor performing business model that was the NZRFU.

In some ways, with all that transpired off the field, Foster lost a World Cup final by 1 point, after making a serious selection mistake by not playing ROIGARD ahead of Christie and losing Captain Cane after 29 minutes.

The fact is we lost the World Cup to South Africa.

As T Bone says, the future looks bright for the All Blacks at half back.

The current All Black squad is no where near the skill level and brilliance of the 2015 side. Who knows what they “can be” with an attitude change, under the guidance of a Top Coach.

Look at Auckland and Vern Cotter. Then look at the Crusaders and Rob Penny. Both had the best nucleus of players in Super Rugby.

The Crusaders have the best development programme in New Zealand Rugby. They always have top young players coming through. This year it never looked like happening.

For example their lineout was crap. A good coach would have fixed that, yet after 6 games it was still crap.

And that is the difference between average coaches and top coaches.

The only worry I have with the All Blacks is the support staff, when I see Vern Cotter,
Clayton McMillan and Jamie Joseph not part of the All Blacks or would that fall into “to many egos spoil the broth”

T
Troy 24 days ago

Perenara and Christie were only ever fighting for the reserve bench for years playing second fiddle to Aaron Smith. They are still unimpressive as ever and neither has improved their looping delayed passing that is predictable as. Neither are a threat with ball in hand and their kicking clearance is slow and not high enough. Neither will be around for the WC.
Nuff said.

M
MattJH 24 days ago

Hearty, hearty player.

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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