Afoa surprised he can 'keep up with the boys' after Super return

John Afoa was all smiles before his debut for the Crusaders.

He may now hold the record for oldest player to feature in Super Rugby but new Crusaders prop John Afoa proved last week he can still play with the best of them.

Having decided to wrap his 10-year stint in Europe, New Zealand-bound Afoa answered an SOS call from the Crusaders to join the side with two rounds of the competition left to cover the serious injury crisis they have in their propping department, with injuries to All Blacks Joe Moody, George Bower and Fletcher Newell, as well as Finlay Brewis.

"All I knew was I was done in France and I was coming home," Afoa said about how his Crusaders move came about.

"If it was for two days or 10 days or five weeks, it didn't matter to me. I'm here this week and that's what matters to me."

After an impressive debut by the former Blues star for his new club, Afoa's time back in Super Rugby is set to wrap up with this weekend's final round of the regular season.

Afoa is ineligible to play for the Crusaders in the playoffs as he won't have played the required minimum four round-robin games or a match in New Zealand before April 1.

The 39-year-old conceded he was a "bit gutted" he won't get to help the Crusaders finish their campaign but he was just thankful to be given an opportunity regardless.

"It's just nice to be back here," Afoa said.

"Obviously it's strange being back here. I'm used to training here [in Christchurch with the All Blacks] but the Crusaders are a great organisation and they've got a great set up.

"It's just nice to come here and maybe not mix it with but I can keep up with the boys.

"I'm enjoying every minute."

John Afoa makes a run for the Crusaders.

In fact, Afoa put together 48 minutes for the Crusaders in their 42-18 drubbing of the Waratahs at the weekend and he admitted with a wee grin that took some compromising with his new coaches.

"At the weekend, they said, 'you have to play at least 50 minutes', and I was like, 'there's no way!'

"I only played 45 minutes max in France!"

Afoa added it was a good thing he did play a limited amount as the short turnaround from Christchurch Airport to Orangetheory Stadium caught up with him soon after.

"The boys said we should go for beers afterwards but I was done, I was cooked," he said.

"I was in bed by nine o'clock."

Afoa's early night meant he didn't have much time to reflect on his new record as the oldest player to compete in Super Rugby although he joked now that it has settled in, it wasn't a piece of trivia he will ideally be remembered for.

John Afoa makes a run for the Blues in 2011.

"I wasn't trying to make any records but I do love the game and it's given me so many opportunities so I'm just looking to give back.

"I'm representing everyone over 35 - all the old guys who are now coaching, none of them are still playing and represent the old boys."

Afoa has been named to start at tighthead prop for this weekend's clash in Wellington where he could face off at a scrum with old All Blacks teammate Owen Franks, who has been named on the Hurricanes bench for the encounter.

He said he would catch up with Franks for a coffee while in the capital before moving on to Auckland to be with family and watch the Super Rugby playoffs.

With that in mind, Afoa said he would be supporting both the Blues - his longtime former club of seven seasons - and Crusaders in the quarterfinals.

Should the two sides meet in the semis, he already has a solution.

"I'll maybe wear my Blues top and Crusaders shorts and sit on halfway and see what happens."

Hurricanes v Crusaders, Saturday, June 3, Wellington, 7.05pm

Crusaders: 15. Will Jordan, 14. Dallas McLeod, 13. Braydon Ennor, 12. Jack Goodhue, 11. Leicester Fainga'anuku, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Mitch Drummond, 8. Christian Lio-Willie, 7. Tom Christie, 6. Scott Barrett (capt), 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Quinten Strange, 3. John Afoa, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Tamaiti Williams.

Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister, 17. Kershawl-Sykes-Martin, 18. Reuben O'Neill, 19. Zach Gallagher, 20. Sione Havili Talitui, 21. Louie Chapman, 22. Fergus Burke, 23. Chay Fihaki.


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