Evans making up for lost time

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

If anyone has had their love for rugby well and truly tested it is Evans who suffered long-standing injuries in three consecutive seasons.

That's all the more reason for his thoroughly enjoying the opportunities that have come his way in 2017 and as the Highlanders prepare for another of their four local derbies to start the season. 


"It's never good to see your team-mates get injured but I guess it's an opportunity for other people to stand up I guess," he said.

Evans explained that in spite of injuries he had suffered he retained his burning desire to continue playing rugby.

"It is the love of the game, rugby is an awesome job and I'm quite privileged to have it. I can definitely think of worse things waking up on a Monday morning and going to that's for sure.

"Until 2013, when I first moved back to Hawke's Bay for provincial rugby, I hadn't really had any serious injuries and I've had three operable injuries in the last three years. I've obviously been dealt a rough hand but I'm really looking forward to getting into things and I'm just enjoying playing footy at the moment.

"In 2014 I broke my collarbone and then in the first 10 minutes of the ITM Cup season in 2015 I snapped my forearm and in the Mitre 10 Cup last year I didn't get on the field at all as I had knee surgery towards the end of Super Rugby," he said.

Evans said that rugby was only ever a short-term career option so there was a period open for probably, at best, 10 years, in New Zealand.

"I've definitely thought about the highs and lows of rugby and what it can deal for you. I thought about if I was 35 and I had given it up too early so that keeps me going. I've got a good network base around me – my family have been good, mum and dad have been awesome so that has been good," he said.

With concern for injuries, and concussion especially, rising he supports recent moves to minimise injury.

He feels the lowering of the tackle area to avoid impact with the head made the game more of a contest and the HIA concussion testing was a significant advance for the better.

"A few years ago a lot of that would probably have slipped through the system whereas now it is fully analysed and even in club rugby they have brought in a blue card so if the referee deems a player has taken a head knock he has to go and get that checked after a game which I think is quite good as concussion is almost a silent injury and can affect a lot of players."

Getting the first win of the season against the Blues last weekend had been important for the Highlanders but Evans did endure some anguish when sin-binned in the last hectic moments on defence in Auckland.

"They got a bit of momentum on then towards the end and obviously I made a bit of a wrong decision there and we copped it. My heart was definitely in my mouth so when the final whistle went we were pretty lucky to grab the lollies and get out of there," he said.

The side had started well but were frustrated by injury losses.

"We turned up there and in the first 15 minutes we were going all right and then losing Waisake [Naholo] and losing Lima [Sopoaga] for the last 15 minutes dealt us a bit of a card, but everyone gets dealt those cards and we were just happy to get the four points and get back to Dunedin and do a bit of analysis on the game."

Now the attention was turning to the Hurricanes challenge in Wellington on Saturday and it was a case of getting combinations right for the Highlanders.

"Obviously there will be some players coming in, the team hasn't been named yet but I'm assuming there'll be some players coming into key positions that might be getting some more game time than what they have previously had so for us combinations will be the No.1 thing to get right this week."