Ben Afeaki back in rugby for the Blues

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Lynn McConnell     01 Dec 2017     Getty Images

Coach Tana Umaga said it was huge to be able to develop Afeaki as their scrum coach. 

Yet his choice was not immediately obvious to the former All Blacks captain when he and his management team had been looking around the Blues region for a local coach for the role.

"It was just during a discussion with our physio Ash Draper who used to work for [North] Harbour and he said have you thought about Ben, which I hadn't because he hadn't been in rugby so I just made a call to [Harbour coach] Tom Coventry," Umaga said.

"Tom is a very astute coach and he knows his stuff. He spoke very highly of Ben and then when I rang Ben he gave me a bit of the same response that Augustine [Pulu] gave [when he asked him to captain the side]. It came out of the blue, he didn't think it was serious.

"I don't know what it is when I call people, they don't think I'm serious but I do think about these things.

"Obviously he was taken aback by the approach but when he thought about it and the support he received, not just from Tom but also [All Blacks scrum coach] Mike Cron, and when he came back and we went through the process of selecting a scrum coach, he came out on top.

"We're more than happy with the experience, with what he's been through and his passion, as scrum coaches have, to pass on that scrum knowledge to others.

"He's been working with the Harbour scrum so he's already got a connection with some of the players. He's played, not so long ago with some of our players as well, so we're very happy with that and very happy to have him on board," Umaga said.

Afeaki played one Test for the All Blacks in 2013 and eight games for the Maori All Blacks, also played 36 games for the Chiefs between 2010-13 and 58 times for North Harbour. He also won world titles with the New Zealand Under-19 team in 2007 and the Under-20 team in 2008.

He said he had been working with the North Harbour Mitre 10 Cup scrum for 'a bit of fun' and had worked with the Harbour Under-19s before that.

"I really enjoyed helping the boys out and watching them grow and when Tana called up I was a bit shocked and I was pretty honest with him and said I didn't know if I was up to it.

"I had a think about it and thought, 'what a great opportunity', and it is awesome to be involved in a region I grew up in. I'm excited and hopefully we can get the best out of the boys and have a good season," he said.

Afeaki said that in spite of all the problems he had with concussion and it forcing him to take an early retirement from rugby, he still loved the game which had done a lot for him and he wanted to give something back and help the Blues out and give them the best shot to move forward, to play the best rugby they can and to achieve their goals.

He never planned a coaching career and was only looking to help out North Harbour and have some fun.

"It was a bit of a shock but when I thought about it this was what I had done for the last 10 years of my life and I probably have as much experience as a lot of coaches. It's exciting. I've set goals for myself and the boys will set goals and that's what I want to help them achieve," he said.

He said he still suffered as a result of his concussion problems but he could manage it, and he was still often approached by fellow sufferers to talk about the issue.

"I still get a big foggy with it, and have to manage my time that I work because if I overdo it, I'll battle for a couple of days with fatigue. I don't get headaches which is good but I still get that fogginess and drowsiness every now and then. It's all about management for me. If I can manage it well I normally get through a lot of things," he said.