AFTER SIX YEARS with the Blue Bulls in his native South Africa, Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner could at least find familiarity in the shade of his kit as he took to Leinster training for the first time today.
The 29-year-old was recruited by the eastern province this summer as a replacement for the retired Isa Nacewa and after playing his part in South Africa’s Rugby Championship campaign he won’t need too long to get up to full match fitness.
Winning a place in the team, however, may not prove so straightforward. Least of all in his preferred fullback slot where Rob Kearney will hope to retain his stranglehold on the number 15 shirt.
“He’s been pretty quiet so far,” Kearney said of his new competitor/team-mate yesterday before stressing that the Leinster squad would be making an effort to show the new signing all the hot spots in south Dublin – from Nandos to Starbucks.
“It’s difficult for him, coming to a new team, to a squad that their season is kicked off and you’re trying to fit in with guys when big matches are coming up, but he’s going good.
“Guys are making an effort and it’s important over the next few weeks go on that guys do make an effort: take him out for some grub, or show him around, take him for coffee. Little things like that are going to make a big difference to him.”
Kirchner walks to training with his countryman, Quinn Roux. ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Asked about the competition Kirchner would pose, Kearney, whose brother Dave will also be competing directly with the new man, rightly sounded pretty confident of his place for this weekend’s Heineken Cup pool meeting with Castres.
“Whether he’s involved this week, who knows. But as we move on into Rabo and November [internationals] there’ll be a few guys missing I’m sure he’ll feature a huge amount.”
“It’s another body there and he’s an international so will be pushing really hard for a place. You’d always expect to have a couple of injuries in the season, but at a time when everybody is fully fit and playing well the coach has some tricky decisions to make.”