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This year's domestic competition may be more cluttered than it has ever been but new Otago lock Daniel Ramsay cannot get enough rugby.
Ramsay (27), who signed for Otago this season with an aim of winning a Super 15 contract, is just back on the field after seven months out of action because of a shoulder reconstruction.
He has played four games in his comeback and is out for more, starting with locking the scrum with Tom Donnelly against North Harbour tomorrow night.
"The more games you play then you better you feel. You can do all the training you might want but there is nothing better than playing the game. I'm not far away. I'm feeling a lot better than I did a month ago," he said.
Ramsay was brought up in Invercargill, and first tried his luck in Dunedin when he was just out of school, playing one year for Zingari-Richmond.
But he headed back home after that year, and eventually racked up 22 games for Southland before being signed by Wellington at the end of 2008 season. He enjoyed being coached by Jamie Joseph in Wellington but constant problems with his left shoulder led to him having a reconstruction four games into last season. He was constantly subluxing the shoulder - as the shoulder falls slightly out of its socket - and the operation was the only option.
That cut his season short last year, after 19 games for Wellington in two years. It led to a lengthy rehabilitation, which went to schedule - getting back on the field seven months after going under the knife.
"It went all right but took a while. Now I can finally lift some decent weights and get some confidence back now."But it was not all plain sailing as his first training run back after more than half a year on the sidelines caused another injury.
"I had a run with the Highlanders and my hand got stood on so I had to have some stitches. That put me back a couple of weeks."
Ramsay, who is partway through a building apprenticeship he started in Southland, said the competition to win a spot in the Hurricanes second row was tough so he decided to head south and hope a top season with the Otago side would enable him to force his way into the Highlanders.
"I heard all the stories about Otago and the negativity which was around the team. But I have not found that at all. It has totally changed. There is a really good vibe here and we've had three wins from our three pre-season games so you can't complain about that."
He said the cold weather forecast meant his role tomorrow night would be of utmost importance.
"Obviously the set piece becomes very important and we have just got to play territory and our defence has to be totally accurate.
"They have a slick backline with guys who want to run the ball so our defence has to be crucial."