Thursday 8 December 2016

Tyler Bleyendaal - A long way from home, No 10 finds solace with his new clan

Former Crusaders kicker is delighted to play his part after the frustrations of an injury lay-off

Daragh Small

Published 18/11/2016 | 02:30

Bleyendaal: the earthquake in Christchurch has been a devastating blow to the area. SPORTSFILE
Bleyendaal: the earthquake in Christchurch has been a devastating blow to the area. SPORTSFILE

Earlier this week New Zealand's latest earthquake was upgraded to a magnitude of 7.8, just five years on from the horrific quake that killed 185 people and injured thousands.

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Christchurch native and Munster out-half, Tyler Bleyendaal was forced to relive the horror that shook his homeland in 2011.

Despite being on the other side of the world, the 26-year-old was deeply affected by the catastrophe on a personal level.

The former New Zealand U-20 captain has not been back to his homeland in two years, and he expects to see a vastly different landscape when he visits in the summer.

"This one was close to my home again. Just when you think the people back there are getting over the last earthquake, this happens. This time it has affected a few more rural communities and towns along the coast. It's sad to see that, and there is a lot of recovery to be done there," said Bleyendaal.

"It is shocking and you're just thinking, here we go again. It's obviously slightly different this time because it happened overnight and it was almost a little bit better than if the people were out and about.

"I haven't been home for two years. Something like this does make you a little homesick when you see the people that I hang out with, my family, my former team-mates.

"The town of Christchurch will be a little bit different when I get back because there is a lot of rebuilding and resettlement to be done. I head back in June. Thankfully my family are going well and I will see them when I get back."

Back on the rugby field it has been a difficult couple of weeks for New Zealand too. And tomorrow his compatriots will look to put things right against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

It was Ireland's first ever victory over New Zealand at that level, but most importantly, it has given Joe Schmidt's side the belief that they can do it again.

Bleyendaal, who has played 12 times for Munster and scored one try, says it was a tough defeat for the All Blacks to take, but he knows they can bounce back in Dublin this weekend.

"If Ireland can keep up the intensity they played with in Chicago it's going to be a cracker of a game. A lot can be said about how the All Blacks played in the last game, but I think Ireland did really well.

"They absorbed a lot of pressure when New Zealand came back and then they finished strong in the last ten minutes. It's going to be a different game for sure. It's going to be a cracker and I hope to get up there to watch it myself.

"I was a little surprised with how the first game went, because Ireland came into the game under the radar, and I have never seen them perform like that. But now they have set the benchmark and that will be exciting for the future.

"That defeat would have hurt New Zealand a lot. They had a really good run with their record winning streak. We can expect a response and a really good game."

SURGERY

Bleyendaal left New Zealand and the Crusaders at the end of 2014, but injury plagued the first couple of seasons of his stay in Limerick.

After signing a new three-year contract with the province in May of that year, he picked up a neck injury playing ITM Cup Rugby for Canterbury that subsequently required surgery.

Bleyendaal eventually landed in Munster in January 2015, and only made his debut for the province last season, with just four more appearances to go with it in 2015-16.

But this season he has been re-born, and has looked rejuvenated in recent weeks, along with the rest of the Munster team who have strung four impressive victories together against Glasgow Warriors, Ulster, Ospreys and the Maori All Blacks.

Bleyendaal made his Champions Cup debut in the highly charged 38-17 victory over the Scots at Thomond Park on October 22.

The game couldn't have gone much better for the Kiwi with a 100 per cent kicking record off the tee, and 16 points, including his first try for the province.

Bleyendaal has become a potent force with Ireland international scrum-half Conor Murray supplying ball from the base of the ruck.

He has thrived ever since he strung a few games back-to-back and down the line he hopes to become the latest great No 10 to wear the Munster colours.

But he knows it's crucial that he staves off injury, and continues to work on his basics with the Munster coaching staff.

"I'm really enjoying my time with Munster and things are developing nicely.

"We are pretty excited by the younger guys performing. We are so happy to see the levels that we are hitting and we just want to keep improving and trying to perform to those levels.

"It has been great to get on the park and stringing a few games together. But it makes it all the more enjoyable with the way the team is playing.

"I worked hard in the pre-season and off-season. I've minded my kicking leg and we have to be smart about managing my load and how many balls I kick, and the red flags that potentially come up. I am just happy to be able to contribute.

"I just want to be a part of this team and continue to grow along with it. I want to put us in the right positions in the park and making the right calls to get the best of the players around me. That's one of the key aspects for me and it's something I really enjoy doing.

"We want to perform better in the Pro12 and Europe and if I can continue to contribute that would be great," he said.

Irish Independent

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