The Chiefs hosted their annual awards night at SKYCITY in Hamilton on Wednesday night, with their best and fairest players receiving the recognition they deserved for their efforts throughout the 2019 campaign. Followers of rugby can book Rugby World Cup Final Tickets online.
It’s been a testing season for the two-time champions, too. Three wins from their opening 10 matches had the potential to seriously threaten their streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances since 2012.
Add to that the season-ending knee injury to star playmaker Damian McKenzie in mid-April and many had written the Chiefs off as New Zealand’s wooden spoon-winners.
His experience, nippy running game, and all-around leadership have helped the side overturn their five-match winless streak to start the year and force themselves into playoff contention in a matter of weeks.
Should the Chiefs have failed to emerge from Melbourne with a quarter-final berth, Weber could have taken solace in the fact that his efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed, as he was awarded coaches’ player of the year, and fans’ player of the year three nights ago.
“I reckon that’s probably gone a long way to helping me play better because I just feel so much clearer and better out on the field.”
With no clear-cut third-choice option at halfback available to the All Blacks, the race is well and truly on to accompany incumbents Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara at this year’s World Cup in Japan.
You could excuse Weber for getting caught up in the hype of All Blacks selection in a World Cup year, but, along with his prime physical condition, the one-test halfback also attributes his electric form to his ability to deflect such distractions.
“In previous years, I reckon I let the All Blacks selection probably consume me a bit too much, and it probably affected me negatively on the field,” he said.
“I can’t control selection, all I can control is how I play, so that’s been a huge mind shift for me, and, honestly, it’s like a weight off my shoulders, which has been great for me.”
However, he was dropped as the province’s second-choice halfback in favors of 19-year-old Josh Renton, who had flourished at a schoolboy level the year before with Otago Boys’ High School and New Zealand Schools.
“To be honest, that was probably the kick up the ass that I needed, because I’d been playing alright for the Sharks [Dunedin], but I didn’t actually work that hard on my core skills, and Tony Brown, by not selecting me, made me realize that I needed to do more than what I was actually doing,” he said.
There has been a noticeable difference in Weber’s game this year, though, and the conceivable prospect of him winning re-selection back into Hansen’s squad ahead of the World Cup would be a huge reward for his unwavering persistence across all levels of the game in New Zealand.
In saying that, his focus remains firmly on the Chiefs, as it has been all season, with a quarter-final against either the Crusaders in Christchurch or Jaguares in Buenos Aires still to play.
“All of what I’ve worked to over the past few years would be all worth it, and the decision to come into pre-season early just so I can get into good nick and give it a real decent crack would just be incredibly satisfying.”
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