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'It's something I'd love to do' - Oli Jager close to All Black dream after signing two-year Crusaders extension

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Oliver Jager pictured in action for Crusaders

Oliver Jager pictured in action for Crusaders

Oliver Jager pictured in action for Crusaders

Irishman Oli Jager has signed a two-year contract extension at Crusaders as the next step in his dream of becoming an All Black.

"I love it here in Christchurch. I love it here in New Zealand," the 24 year-old said in Christchurch on Wednesday morning.

"I've been here for the last seven years, coming on eight. I can't see myself anywhere else. I pretty much have my whole life set up here. I don't really want to change that.

"It is hard to put it on one thing. It is everything really. I just love the team as a whole, all the players. It is like one big family.

Why would he want to undo all the hard work that has involved mentoring from All Black Owen Franks, before his departure for The Premiership, and the graft of coaches like Scott Robertson and Jason Ryan.

There is also the current rivalry with Michael Alaalatoa for that number three shirt at the best club in world rugby ahead of the restart of Super Rugby this weekend, with Crusaders pencilled in for a bye.

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Oli Jager is pictured in action for New Brighton

Oli Jager is pictured in action for New Brighton

Oli Jager is pictured in action for New Brighton

The commitment to excellence has Crusaders chasing their fourth Super Rugby title in a row and their 11th in total, making for the perfect competitive environment in which to grow.

"I remember Brad Mooar (ex-Crusaders assistant coach) sitting me down years ago and telling me it will be like coming into Disneyland every Monday because everyone is so excited to get back into work.

"That culture is just so infectious. Everyone loves coming in and everyone loves being with each other, just playing rugby.

"That is something I wanted to keep doing, to get that starting role."

The one-step at a time mentality prevents Jager from looking too far ahead. He would admit to nothing more than "a little bit of interest from Europe."

"This is my first choice. I didn’t really see myself going anywhere else."

No one signs a contract at Crusaders without the ambition to become an All Black. It is, in many ways, what the game is all about for New Zealanders. And, now, for the man from Kildare.

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Oli Jager celebrates a victory during his time at Canterbury

Oli Jager celebrates a victory during his time at Canterbury

Oli Jager celebrates a victory during his time at Canterbury

"Number one is to make sure I get into the starting role at the Crusaders and go from there,” he stated..

"In the long run, I have thought about it. It is something I would like to see (happen), something I would love to do."

Jager has taken a unique route to becoming a professional player, turning rejection at Leinster in 2013, where he was not invited to join the Academy, into acceptance at the other end of the world.

"If I didn't come down, I definitely wouldn't be who I am now," he shared.

"It was definitely difficult. It wasn't a straight line journey," he said.

"Tight-head is one of the most difficult positions on the pitch, in terms of physically and technically.

"It is the same for any position or coach. You are always going to have that mental battle whether it is self-doubt or injuries.

"It is about overcoming them and being able to get back on the paddock and start playing again.

This is where Jason Ryan enters into the equation as a driving force, mentor and father figure all rolled into one.

The Crusaders assistant coach has been there almost every step of the way for the back-row forward, who had played at tight-head prop for Blackrock College in the 2013 Leinster Schools Cup.

However, he was primarily seen as a back-row forward for most of his teenage years and by the time he got to New Zealand.

Starting out in the International Academy, Jager joined the club New Brighton and was accepted into the Crusaders Academy in 2015, making his Super Rugby debut in 2017.

"It is so special to be able to lock Oli in for the next two years," noted Ryan.

"He is an unbelievable story. This guy kept hanging around our scrum sessions because he wanted to play tight-head prop.

"He had to completely rebuild his whole body and come a different route than most professional tight-heads, which makes it more special."

Online Editors