He’s been stranded on 49 caps for the last five weeks but Rudi Wulf will finally run out in front of the North Harbour faithful to play his 50th game for the Blues tomorrow night.
As has been the story of the season for the Blues, a recurring shoulder injury has seen 28-year-old Wulf spend much of the year on the sidelines, struggling to add just six caps to his pre-season tally of 43.
Wulf’s absence has been a huge blow for the Blues as he had been in scintillating form since returning to the franchise following a year’s sojourn with French club Toulon.
But he’s finally shrugged off the injury and can’t wait to rip in against the Chiefs to bring up the half ton.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to reach 50 games for the Blues and it’s finally come around,” Wulf said.
“It’s a special milestone in my career and one I’ll cherish and always remember. North Harbour is my home province so it’s something special to run out here for my 50th and I’m looking forward to trying to notch up a win with the boys.”
Wulf admits it has been incredibly difficult watching on helplessly from the sidelines this year as the team has lurched from one defeat to another and is desperate to reverse the trend now he’s fully fit.
“It’s been really frustrating. I hate watching the games, I just want to be out there with the boys and trying to do my part but I just had to wait for the shoulder to heal. It’s feeling fine now and not causing me any pain so I can’t wait to get out there.”
But while he’s been unable to make his mark on the field for much of the season, it hasn’t stopped the livewire back from working tirelessly off it to help develop the new crop of outside backs coming through.
Wulf has taken rookie George Moala under his wing, schooling him on the intricacies of Super Rugby and passing on any pearls of wisdom he thinks will benefit the young back.
“I’ve buddied up with George this year and have just been talking to him and trying to encourage him with his game but also with the other back three in David, Sherwin and Parksy. We all work together to try to get ready for the game and because I’ve been running defence against them at training it’s good to put some pressure on and help them out for the game.”
It’s that sort of attitude and commitment to improving the team that has Blues head coach Pat Lam labelling Wulf “the Mealamu of the backline.”
“He’s incredibly well respected, he gives 100 per cent every time he gets on the field, he’s one of the hardest trainers in the team and the boys love having him around. He’s always willing to help out other guys, he’s quite unassuming but he’s held up as one of the role models in the team so I’m really pleased for him to reach 50 caps, it’s a great achievement,” Lam said.
There will be no easing back into action for Wulf as he starts at fullback against the high-flying Chiefs who have dropped just two games this season.
“You couldn’t ask for a harder game to come back to playing against the number one team in the competition at the moment and the way they’ve been going we’re going to have to play our best game of the year to beat them.”
With Wulf and Rene Ranger back in the backline against the Chiefs, an upset could be in the making.