With three All Blacks locks on the books as well as two second-rowers who were brought into the New Zealand national squad last season, it’s not hard to see why Cantabrian Sam Darry may have wanted to continue his rugby development away from the Crusaders region.
In Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Quin Strange and Mitch Dunshea, the Crusaders have perhaps the best locking stocks of any rugby club in the world.
For a young lock coming through the system, working under that quintet would bring certain benefits, of course, in the form of the best mentorship that any developing player could ever hope for. However, on the flip side, opportunities on the field would be at a minimum.
20-year-old Darry, who debuted for Canterbury in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup, knew that his decision to sign with the Blues might ruffle a few feathers, but it was ultimately the best one for his burgeoning career.
“I owe the Crusaders a lot because I’ve come through the academy, done my schooling there, did an ITC (interim training contract) with them last year,” Darry told Stuff ahead of this weekend’s clash with the Highlanders. “They’ve pretty much shaped me into the player I am today, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
“But I thought it’s the kind of decision I’ve got to be a wee bit selfish with. You’ve got to think about what’s best for you. At this time I thought coming up here was a great opportunity for me, not only in rugby but also in life.”
For Strange and Dunshea, effectively the Crusaders’ back-ups behind Whitelock and Barrett, they at least know that the men ahead of them will need to be rested at times throughout the season – and there’s always a bench spot on offer.
That wouldn’t have been the case for Darry, however, who would have been sixth in the pecking order and almost certainly would not have picked up a full-time contract for 2021.
Having made the move to the Blues, however, Darry is now on track to make his Super Rugby debut and will partner Patrick Tuipulotu in today’s clash with the Highlanders at Eden Park.
It wasn’t just the playing minutes that lured Darry north, however, with the overall package sold to the young lock by Leon MacDonald an extremely enticing offer.
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“It was the whole package of being up in Auckland, the coaching staff, the trainers, the opportunities for developing and hopefully growing into a player who can play at the top level,” Darry said. “It takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me stand on my own two feet a bit more.
“I wanted to be somewhere I can really grow and learn. Once I started talking to people about the Blues, I only heard good things about Leon and Tom Coventry. Everyone was singing their praises, and I thought, ‘Those are people I want to learn off.'”
Standing at over 6 foot 6, Darry is comfortably the tallest player in the Blues squad – though he’s also the lightest of the team’s locking contingent. Undoubtedly, the son of All Blacks nutritionist Kat Darry will take on a few more pounds as he navigates the early stages of his professional career.
Darry and Blues captain Tuipulotu will line up against the Highlanders’ Josh Dickson and Manaaki Selby-Rickit in this afternoon’s battle for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy.
The match is set to kick off at 3:35pm NZT and will be available to stream via RugbyPass with a Super Rugby Aotearoa subscription.
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