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Zane: I aim to make my mark

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Leinster's Zane Kirchner. Picture credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Leinster's Zane Kirchner. Picture credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Leinster's Zane Kirchner. Picture credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

ZANE Kirchner has been a busy man. Within the last six or so months he has moved jobs, moved house, moved to a new country entirely and even managed to have a baby girl for good measure.

Not one to do things by half, he has now finally had the chance to take stock on a manic six months and all that has happened.

"It's all good!" he says in that laid-back manner of his. "Dublin itself is good and while it took me a while to find my way around, I am now well settled, living near to the Leinster HQ in Ballinteer and enjoying the whole experience."

The 29-year-old from the Western Cape has also been impressed with his new rugby surroundings, both on and off the pitch.

"Leinster is a proud club and the ethos is very grounded and I like that. It is about representing your people, your fans and your communities. I think that brings out the best in you. Week-in and week-out, knowing that you are taking to the field striving to perform to the best of your abilities for those people. You are wearing the jersey for them. You also want to contribute. I am very mindful of the past successes at Leinster but I want to make my contribution now."

It can't be an easy decision, though, to up sticks at such a delicate time in his and his wife Tasmeen's life, but the two-time Super Rugby winner with the Bulls accepts that it is part and parcel of the professional rugby journey. New experiences. New cultures. New beginnings.

"It was definitely a joint decision for Tasmeen and I. I had spoken to a few people at home like CJ (van der Linde) and they only had good things to say about Dublin and Leinster but still with us expecting a baby it was a big decision. I didn't want either to be missing out on seeing my family growing up so we made the joint decision to move to Dublin."

With Amaris a month old, over they flew to Dublin and into, according to Met Éireann, the worst Irish winter on record.

"It hasn't been easy! The darkness of the clouds when it really comes down is something else! We headed away from Dublin during our little break in January and we hit the west coast. We visited Galway and the Cliffs of Moher and even went as far as Kerry. But I feel we need to go back there during the summer as it was difficult to see just what we were visiting! Awful weather!"

Through rain, hail or shine Zane has had a decent run of late in the Leinster team, most notably with Rob Kearney and the rest of the Irish contingent away on Six Nations duty. He's enjoyed it and feels he is now hitting form.

"To be honest, this is the first real run of games and in the first couple of games in this Six Nations window I was struggling – I found a big difference in the breakdown for example – so that was a big learning curve for me but I have spent a lot of time on it with the coaching team and I feel that I am getting there. I think even against the Glasgow Warriors I felt as good as I've felt all year and I was far more comfortable so that is a good sign."

Interestingly, he readily admits that the later kick-offs have been one of the trickier parts of this transition.

"I didn't know what to be doing! Waking up in the morning, but hours to kill before the game! How and when do you eat and hydrate? Do you fit in another sleep during the day? Even if you do, you could still be hours away! It really is a challenge mentally to stay focused and in the zone for such a long period of time but I'm getting there. To be fair, the rest of the guys are used to it but I am catching up. Less of the 8.30pm ones though, please!"

So what does the 28-times capped Springbok make of their season so far and in particular of the Six Nations series of games?

"One of our goals was to be competitive during these four games so, in that regard, we are where we wanted to be with four wins. Of course there are areas to improve upon but ultimately to be top of the Pro12 at the end of this block of games is very satisfying and I think we can head off into this mini break and can enjoy it knowing we have performed well and we can look forward to coming back in a week or so in a very positive frame of mind."

Four wins, three bonus points and a squad in good health, it is certainly time for a well-earned break. However, Zane has learned one final valuable lesson from his time in Ireland.

"We're off to Dubai! Sunshine! To be fair, Tasmeen has a few friends there so it will be her time to unwind and to catch up with friends and I will look after Amaris. But the guaranteed sunshine will be good!"

Introvert

You would think that in all his chats CJ would have mentioned the bad weather to his fellow Springbok, but maybe he didn't want to put him off. You get the sense that the former dreadlocked speedster can only take so much.

"I'm an introvert – peace and quiet is what I am after! But there are only so many evenings on the couch watching Netflix while the rain falls outside that you can take!"

Either way, Zane is in a good place and with the business end of the season just around the corner, he is hitting form at the right time. Welcome news for coaches, players and fans alike.


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