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Perofeta's growth a boost for the Blues

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Stephen Perofeta is still a young player on the rise but has grown in his role with the side through all its hardship this year and is poised to make a key contribution to the side's recovery.

Coach Tana Umaga has kept his faith through the side's misfortunes and while Perofeta acknowledges he is not yet the complete deal he is a fair way down the track towards becoming that.

His individual ability to take gaps, to pass players into open space and to do his bit defensively makes him an ever present danger to opposing sides.

It was obvious from the way he handled his debut start for the side, against the British & Irish Lions in last year's win at Eden Park, that there was something special in his play.

Unsurprisingly, he took a big boost in confidence from the exposure, especially having come from no rugby, apart from a few moments against the Reds in Apia, to be up against internationals who had more than 50 Test caps.

"It could have been overwhelming, but I didn't let it get to me and I sort of looked at it as a nothing-to-lose situation. It gave me heaps of confidence going onwards from that and even this year it has given me that belief and trust in what I can do and what I can bring to the table in how I play and what I can do for the team," he said.

The game itself had been one of passion for the Blues team while the Lions had given everything to try and push for the win. But rugby aside, the atmosphere created at a packed Eden Park, where he was playing his first game in front of a noisy crowd in which there was a sea of red jerseys supporting the Lions, it had a been a beautiful moment, he said.

"I think it was something this club will cherish," he said.

That was followed by his call-up to the New Zealand Under-20 side at their Junior World Cup as an injury replacement in time to play in the 64-17 final win over England in which he landed seven conversions.

The experiences had been supplemented by a return to Taranaki for his second season of Mitre 10 Cup and he found he was able to enjoy his rugby more with the confidence boost to play the running, instinctive game he enjoyed.

All the time he was putting the experiences together with a view to returning to Super Rugby with the Blues.

The higher level of the Super Rugby game also demanded more attention off the field by attending to books and developing the trust in the players around him so that it got to the point where he could execute his role knowing those around him were also doing theirs.

More starting time this year had been a boost and he had learnt a lot but he recognised there was a lot more he could work on.

Having the starts meant he got to observe other practitioners of the first five-eighths role from close quarters and there were things he could take from watching the way they played.

"You learn and you grow from it, it's fun and I enjoy it," he said.

Last weekend's game with the Hurricanes allowed him to watch the style of the world's best player of the last two years Beauden Barrett and there were little things he took from the game regarding the manner of how he conducted himself and drove his team around and the decisions he made in certain parts of the field.

Every game involved analysis afterwards not only of his opponents but of his own game as well.

"I took a couple of things from him and chatting to him after the game it was pretty good. He came up to me and talked about how he put up a bomb which was a floater and how I managed to pick it up. I was surprised too, but it was just little things like that and showed he's a top man," he said.

Confidence to know when to put his own skills to work was evidenced during the Sharks game, and while the Blues lost there had been a three-try burst in the second half which showed what the side, and Perofeta, were capable of. He scored one of the tries with a searing break which utilised both his speed and evasive skills.

He used that as an example of what he is capable of doing when the situation presents itself.

He did work on developing his acceleration skills off the mark, and said he should probably do more.

His development was one of constantly looking for improvement and with the opportunities he has had this year, while the side has been down on success, he said he wasn't so much as happy, but satisfied, as he worked to contribute to future success for the Blues.