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Super Rugby

Muscling up

Muscling up

BLUES FLANKER Chris Lowrey knows he is no Jerome Kaino.

He understands it is a challenge stepping in for a world-class player of that stature, but is trying his hardest to make sure he meets the high standards the American Samoa-born bruiser had set before his season-ending shoulder injury.

You cannot fault Lowrey’s heart. What he lacks in X-factor, he more than makes up for in commitment.

He has shown plenty of ticker in Super Rugby this year and has been one of the best performers for the Blues during their dreadful campaign. There is no question about it. While some of his more illustrious colleagues – most notably Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams and Piri Weepu – have failed to get going, the former New Zealand Under 21 representative has been toiling away, leading by example.

The 25-year-old has been taking care of business in a workmanlike manner. He has shifted bodies from the breakdown, made his tackles, carried with intent and plucked from the sky plenty of lineout ball (when Mealamu is able to throw the nut in straight) while playing every minute of every game.

“I had a goal at the start of the year to try and be the best player I can be,” says the softly-spoken Lowrey.

“Week-in, week-out I’m just trying to perform to the best of my ability. It’s been good to be able to be on the field consistently and playing in the same position. It’s given me a lot more confidence.”

Some would say Lowrey has achieved his goal; that he is scoring highly in his on-field exams while his teammates splutter like a car engine on a cold, frosty morning and is playing the best footy of his career.

Lowrey is not content. He knows there is room for improvement. He offers an honest appraisal of his output to date: “I’m reasonably happy, but obviously not satisfied. I’ve still got a wee way to go.”

Even more so when you consider he has taken it upon himself to do the job that Kaino used to do so effectively before he was crocked.

Kaino is immense to any side he plays for. His crunching defence is the stuff opposition teams fear and his powerful ball- carries always send earthquake-like aftershocks through even the most impenetrable defensive systems. As far as enforcers go, there are few better than the 48-test All Black.

His abrasive style is a contrast to Lowrey, who is more of a grafter as opposed to a bruiser who tenderises human flesh with punishing hits or strong hit-ups.

“I wouldn’t call myself an enforcer. I was never the fastest, the strongest or the biggest as a young fella, so being able to work hard around the field is something that I’ve always prided myself on.”

But Lowrey is not one to shy away from a challenge. He wants to do the job that Kaino has performed so consistently and admirably for the Blues over the years.

“We’ve lost a lot [in terms of Kaino’s physical presence], so I want to try and step up in that area,” he says.

“I’m obviously not Jerome Kaino, but I can do the best that I can and hopefully that is alright for the team.”

Lowrey is blessed that he can learn from the master; that he can ask for pointers and invaluable pearls of rugby wisdom from the man who took his game to a higher plane last year during the World Cup.

“He’s shown me things he likes to do defensively. From a leadership perspective, he has told me to be a bit more vocal. I’m generally a quiet guy, so he’s taught me a few things there as far as talking goes.

“I want to come off the field knowing I’ve put my body on the line and that the opposition are probably feeling it a bit more than I am. I want to put my mark on a game.”

If he keeps playing the way he has been lately, Lowrey will be doing just that and more.

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