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Masoe admits respect for Holah

Photosport

Thursday, April 27, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    Photosport

Flanker Chris Masoe, who has found himself ticking off some of the best loose forwards in the world as his opponents in the last few matches, knows he faces another when coming up against Marty Holah, the player whose place he took in the Grand Slam touring team last year.

In week eight it was Richie McCaw, in week ten it was Josh Blackie, last weekend it was George Smith and now Holah.

Masoe's approach is to admit his respect for Holah as one of the best flankers in New Zealand but to be more pre-occupied with playing his own game.

That will be crucial to the Hurricanes hopes because they are at a stage where they cannot afford another slip up after the Brumbies loss.

"It was not a good result for us, we let that slip and it is going to be harder now. This week will be more focusing on the Chiefs and forgetting about the loss last weekend. It's time to move on.

"They've become a respectable team and we've got a lot of respect for them and it will be a hard contest on Saturday."

The constant grind, especially in such a high-pressure area as the loose forwards, can be demanding. However, Masoe is thriving in the role.

"The main thing is you have got to enjoy it, and that's the main thing I have got out of it and I am enjoying out on the field with Jerry [Collins] and Rodney [So'oialo].

"We've played with each other for five years now and we know each other's play well and that is a help in my game.

"They are class players and I've learnt a lot from those two and that has helped make my game easier," he said.

Circumstances demand, however, that the Hurricanes get back in their successful groove and Masoe acknowledged that while the team has been more consistent, there are still areas in which tidier play is needed.

"We've still got a lot of room to improve and prove to ourselves that we can be the team to beat this year."

One of those areas is in the start to their game. The Hurricanes have become renowned for their ability to come back strongly in the second half, although the danger in that was what led to their defeat by the Brumbies, they left their run too late.

Failing to start well left the side having to play catch-up rugby and the Hurricanes, in what remains of their season, will be looking to address that part of their game.

He said his game has changed a lot as a result of his experience with the All Blacks last year.

"It has given me more confidence in my game; that is probably the main thing."

He's also been developing his role as a leader in the side, something demanded not only by his position, but by his combination with Collins and So'oialo. Coach Colin Cooper and others have been helping him in that process.

Having spent much of his rugby on the blindside flank, or at No 8, he has been adapting to the openside role, which has been about learning the required lines to run and also about contesting the breakdown more.

Just how proficient he has become in that will be put to the test again in another fascinating loose forward battle on Saturday.