Reinstated first five-eighths Chris Noakes is determined to seize his opportunity when the Blues face the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium tomorrow night in what shapes as a crucial match for both sides.
A revelation in his first season with the Blues last year, Noakes surprised everyone with his strong performances and brilliant ability to drive the football team around the park.
However he has struggled to reproduce that form in 2014 and after disappointing performances against the Highlanders and Lions, the 28-year-old was overlooked and replaced by up-and-coming youngster Simon Hickey.
Noakes has finally been given another opportunity to start in the number 10 jersey tomorrow night, and you get the feeling he’s not about to let this one slip through his grasp.
“Watching the last few weeks has been frustrating,” Noakes said. “You always want to play so I’m really excited about being back in the team.”
Noakes admitted it was difficult being axed from the squad but said it was just part and parcel of professional rugby.
“You never enjoy it but if you let yourself get too down then you’re going to struggle to ever come back,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky in that it hasn’t happened throughout my career so it was a bit different but you have to stay positive. There are 37 guys in our squad and 14 guys aren’t playing each week so you’re not the only one.
“You need to know you deserve to be here in the squad and think you’re good enough to play and I think that. I knew I hadn’t performed how I would have liked in my previous two games this year but I haven’t lost the confidence, I still have that belief that I belong in this team so I’m looking forward to Friday.”
Discarded from the match day 23, Noakes has gone away to work hard on his game, playing for his club side University and a couple of matches for the Blues Development team against the Chiefs where he performed with distinction.
Those performances have boosted his confidence and he’s now eager to do the same on the main stage against the Hurricanes tomorrow night to re-cement his position as the leading 10 for the Blues.
“I don’t get too nervous but maybe this week I’ll have a few more nerves because if I take my opportunity and perform really well then next week when Simon is really back – he’s got a little bit of a groin niggle but he still could have played this week – but if I play really well it makes him have to play just as well to get his spot back too so competition is really good and hopefully it makes us both play better. I certainly want to be in the team next week.”
That all starts tomorrow night when he lines up against All Black Beauden Barrett at Westpac Stadium.