Highlanders first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga has made a simple
new year's resolution - to remain free of injury during the
''I just want to stay injury-free, build some confidence into
my game and play a whole year of Super rugby and a whole year
of ITM Cup,'' Sopoaga said yesterday.
''I want to repay the Highlanders coaching staff and
management who have re-signed me.''
Sopoaga (21) has spent long periods on the sideline during
the past two years and has only played nine games for the
In 2011, he missed eight games after injuring his right
shoulder against the Chiefs. Last year, he fractured the left
shoulder against the Waratahs and had permanent plates and
screws put in. He was out of action for six months.
''The shoulder's perfect now and is back to full strength,''
''It is almost as good as new.''
Sopoaga was full of expectations when he came into the
Highlanders in 2011.
He had made a stellar debut for Wellington in the 2010 ITM
Cup and was a member of the New Zealand team that beat
England 33-22 in the final of the under-20 World Cup in
He played impressively in the early games for the Highlanders
before he was hit by injuries.
''It's been pretty tough,'' Sopoaga acknowledged.
''I've only played nine games for the Highlanders in two
''I just want to stay injury-free in 2013 and hopefully, get
more games under my belt. But I guess injuries are part of
the job and I've just got to get used to it.
''You have to take the good ... I no longer take rugby for
granted. I look forward to coming to training and doing the
''I've had some dark days and tough times but I've learned a
heck of a lot.''
His surgeon told him it was just an unlucky injury last year
and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph let Sopoaga go home to
Wellington after the injury and he spent 10 weeks away from
''I was able to spend time with my family and with my
partner, Jessica Allan.
''I went to Aussie to see my brother and some of my best
mates in Sydney and on the Gold Coast.''
Sopoaga's brother, Tupou, plays rugby league for the Cronulla
Sharks in the NRL. But Sopoaga was not tempted to switch to
''I've always been a rugby kid.
''My brother decided to try something new.''
Sopoaga started rugby again in September when he came off the
bench for Wellington against Waikato during the ITM Cup. He
injured his ankle and missed the Otago game at Forsyth Barr
Stadium. He had a few niggles but carried on playing for the
rest of the season.