Rugby: Meeuws not ready to give game away

Former All Black prop Kees Meeuws signs a Southern jersey at the clubrooms in Dunedin yesterday,...
Former All Black prop Kees Meeuws signs a Southern jersey at the clubrooms in Dunedin yesterday, flanked by club president Bill Somerville (left) and Southern Rugby Club 125th anniversary organising committee chairman Roy Daniels. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Kees Meeuws is laid up at the moment but he has not thrown the boots away yet.

Meeuws, the former All Black, Highlanders and Otago prop, was back in Dunedin for a short break this week, recovering from snapping an Achilles tendon last November in a club match.

The 34-year-old has another year to go on his contract with the Welsh club Llanelli Scarlets and intends seeing that out.

"I've still got a bit of hunger for rugby. You're a long time retired. I think my body and my mind will tell me when I've had enough," Meeuws said.

Meeuws said the rehabilitation was going well on his left leg, he was back running, and all going well he would be back on the field at the start of the next European season.

"We were playing Munster and defending our line in a scrum and I heard it snap. I knew exactly what it was straight away. But I walked off. I'm not a back."

The rehabilitation had been long but he had been boosted by coming home.

Meeuws has spent five weeks back in New Zealand with his family, and said he wanted to come back with his family - wife Juanita, and children Eva (7), Inez (5) and Serge (18 months) - to live in Dunedin one day.

He also has three other children - Javier (16), who lives with Meeuws, and twins Cayne and Taylo (13) - from a previous relationship.

"Dunedin is a special place for me. It is where I met my wife, where we had out first baby. Coming back here, life is easy."

Meeuws, who still owns a house in the city, said he wanted to come back to Dunedin to give something back to the game.

Meeuws left Otago rugby at the end of 2001, and New Zealand rugby at the end of 2004.

He enjoyed four years in France before moving last year to the Welsh club, where former Otago lock Simon Maling also played.

Maling's contract has ended with the club and will not be renewed, as his season has been ruined by injury.

Meeuws said age was not affecting his game.

"I think I've become a smarter rugby player as I've got older. When I was younger I tried to hit every ruck, make every tackle. But now I'm probably more effective at the breakdown and know how to conserve my energy a lot more."

Meeuws said the difference between northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere rugby was that the game in Europe had much more structure.

"It is still very forward-oriented. The set-piece is still really important. It's quite nice and slows the game down. There are a lot more guys over 30 playing there. It's the way rugby used to be.

"Super 14 up there is seen as a game of scrag, and being too fast."

He said since he arrived in France, rugby had grown in popularity enormously.

"But if they [the French] really got themselves sorted out, they could have the biggest competition in the world.

But the trainings in France are well below standard.

The coach might be a mate of the president, and has no idea.

"And when they play away from home, they treat it as a holiday."

Meeuws said the biggest potential danger to New Zealand rugby was South Africa pulling out of the southern hemisphere and going north, which would create the biggest competition in the world.

Meeuws has signed a Southern club jersey which will be auctioned by the club at its 125th anniversary celebrations at Queen's Birthday weekend.

The jersey has been sent around the world to be signed by the club's 12 living All Blacks.
The Meeuws file

Kees Meeuws

Age: 34
Games for All Blacks: 45 (42 tests) 1998-2004
Points: 60 (12 tries)
Games for Otago: 40
Games for Highlanders: 47


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