Lentjes in good shape, keen to get stuck in

Highlanders flanker James Lentjes training at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Highlanders flanker James Lentjes training at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Players want to play - and in the case of Highlanders flanker James Lentjes that will be more than welcome this season.

Lentjes is entering his fifth year with the Highlanders but it has been a period in which he has not had a sustained run in the jersey.

Injury, the bugbear of any player, has certainly cast its spell on Lentjes for the past couple of years.

In 2017, he was itching to get a good run with the Highlanders but dislocated his elbow leading to three months on the sideline,. A shoulder operation restricted his appearances last season as he got a delayed start to the season.

Then playing for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup last year he failed to turn his season around until late because of a neck injury.

So the 28-year-old openside flanker just wants to get out and play the game.

"I just want to stay fit and not get injured. I have had a good pre-season. The last couple of years have been pretty disruptive with injury,'' he said.

"I feel in good shape. I have done all the pre-season and I just want to get stuck in. Obviously we have got a lot of good loose forwards, and we have a lot of competition there. But I'll put my hand up when I get the chance.

"I'm not starting on the back foot now. This year I managed to start in November with everyone else. In the previous years I was missing out on that and had to start later.''

Lentjes, who has played 22 games for the Highlanders, had worked hard to get his body right and put on an extra 4kg for this season. He was not intending to change his game to stay off the sickness table.

"It was just a bit of bad luck, really. Just some freak accidents, really. I can't really change the way I play or I get left behind.''

As an openside flanker, he has his work cut out these days to get turnovers. Teams tend to be able to hang on to the ball longer at the breakdown and hold on to the ball for longer.

"They are trying to keep the ball alive at the breakdown. For if they don't you might as well go away and play league. Refs obviously lean a little bit more towards the attacking side.

"But that is part of rugby and those decisions have to be made. The tackler these days has bugger-all rights ... so it is more about as an arriving player you compete for the ball.''

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