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Hamilton relishing his chances

Wednesday, April 26, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    

As long as the team keeps winning, that is the main thing. But Hamilton is also just pleased to be getting regular starts with the side.

"It certainly helps when you are playing regularly and knowing where I stand. I have been getting some good feedback," he said.

However, the three-quarters have been doing a comparative starve this year for the Crusaders. Rico Gear, who led the try-scoring last year has only managed four so far while Hamilton has touched down three times.

He had visions of a try against the Cheetahs two weekends ago but it wasn't to be.

"There are forwards and backs spread all around the park these days so it doesn't really matter, as long as we are winning," he said.

But regular starts have seen Hamilton's rugby blossom this year and he attributes that to greater consistency in his play. Coaches have pressured him into doing more backing up and working on defensive options.

"It's easier to do those things when you are playing regularly. It helps a player's performance. When you come off the bench and play for 10-15 minutes you try to do too much. So I guess at the moment it is my place to lose."

Life is also better when your inside backs include the best first five-eighths in the world in Dan Carter and a solid second five-eighths like Aaron Mauger. That's not to forget the experience of players like Caleb Ralph when they play at centre.

"At the end of the day it is pretty easy to play well when you have guys of that class inside," he said.

Confidence has been increasing as the season has continued, although there is still disatisfaction in some areas.

"We felt we could have done better against the Waratahs," he said.

And the fact that two games are still to be played in South Africa is a reminder of the need to get points early against the South Africans.

The Waratahs and Hurricanes have been the two toughest teams the side has faced because they could apply the pressure and punish your mistakes.

"It is a good time of year to go away. We have had good weather so far in Christchurch but that might not last, so it will be good to get to some of the warmer South African grounds.

"We get pretty tight when we are on tour and it is good for team-building," he said.

That will be especially useful given what lies ahead when the team returns, a match against the Brumbies and then the semi-finals and final.

Chances are that the Crusaders three-quarters will have seen a little more of the ball by that time and Hamilton may have more tries than is the case.