Super Rugby
Crusaders' Nemani Nadolo poised to shred Super Rugby defences
ESPN Staff
February 23, 2016
Super Rugby: Who will have the best … ?

Warning: Nemani Nadolo is revitalised and ready to do some serious damage in Super Rugby. It's a frightening prospect considering Nadolo finished last year's Super Rugby season with nine tries and a highlights reel the equal of any other player in the competition.

Having spent the majority of the past few seasons on what he calls a "gypsy tour", Nadolo at last enjoyed some time off following his superb performances with Fiji at Rugby World Cup 2015.

But the pre-season wasn't all sunshine and rainbows either, Nadolo admitting the Crusaders' fitness regime had asked some serious questions of his 28-year-old body.

"It was good, after the World Cup I had five weeks off, they [the Crusaders] gave me some time off which was really good," Nadolo told ESPN.

"But it was my first pre-season in four years and, I tell you what, it was a big shock to the body running 10ks a day.

"So, look, it was good to get back in a normal sort of routine, as opposed to going back to Japan and playing.

"So it was the pre-season that I really needed; it was good for the body. But not only that, I had some good rest, you know, whereas in the past I probably would have been doing the off-season in Japan."

If Nadolo's body was enduring some new pre-season experiences, the mind must have suffered an almighty shock when the 130kg powerhouse arrived in Christchurch to be greeted by a plethora of new faces.

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The departure of All Blacks greats Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, as well as fellow Test players Colin Slade and Tom Taylor, have raised questions as to whether the seven-time champions will be up to the task in a fiercely competitive New Zealand conference.

Nadolo is confident the Crusaders' new boys can meet the challenge, ensuring the remaining Crusaders veterans - the likes of All Blacks Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano - won't have to do it all on their own.

"It's massive, we've got nothing to hide there," Nadolo said. "We've got 15 new blokes in the squad but the good thing about it is the squad's hungry; you know there's guys coming in that are fit, especially the young guys that are coming in.

"The new guys who are coming in feel like they've got something to prove, which is good for the team because it keeps the older guys pushing for their spots and working hard; there's a good balance there.

"But in saying that, look, we've got boys that are going to be here for the long run, the energy is good, it's new, obviously when you lose a few of the greats of the game it does change."

One of many Crusaders' "new blokes" is Nadolo's World Cup team-mate Ben Volavola.

The former Waratahs utility had signed with Todd Blackadder's side before the tournament but his series of solid performances against heavyweights England, Australia and Wales only reaffirmed the former All Blacks skipper's faith.

"Yeah, definitely, he pretty much came straight from club rugby to the big stage," Nadolo said of Volavola's development.

"So you know it was good for him; you know in learning sometimes you've got to be thrown in the deep end to know what it's like to play up at the top end. And having him play at the World Cup only helped him with his confidence I thought coming into the Crusaders fold.

"Rugby is obviously different over here [in New Zealand], the way they can back themselves and stuff, so he's fitted in really well to be honest.

"The guys love him here and, look, I think him being in an environment like this is only going to better his game. It's going to be good for him, for the Crusaders and obviously for Fiji."

One thing that wasn't so good for the Crusaders was a 74-7 loss to the Hurricanes in their final pre-season outing.

"It was pretty simple - we just didn't turn up to play," Nadolo said.

"They taught us a valuable lesson in how to play rugby and before we knew it, we had 50 points piled on us. But we took a lot of positives out of that; that's the feeling that's going to happen if we don't show up to play.

© Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

"The Hurricanes are world-class and they had a really good team, and really set the benchmark for what Super Rugby's going to be like. And it doesn't get any easier for us; you know we've got the Chiefs this week and then the Blues next week, and as you know New Zealand derbies are never the easiest of games.

"But, yeah, it was a good wake-up call for everyone in the organisation, from the coaches to the players. We know what it takes now, especially the new guys, so hopefully we can rectify the problem and show up on Saturday - which I know we will."

The Crusaders' regular-season opener sees them face the Chiefs at home, giving the local fans an early opportunity for a glimpse of the Fijian superstar.

They'll want to make the most of it, and the franchise's seven other home games, too, as Nadolo will soon pack his bags and join the ever-expanding foreign legion at French club Montpellier.

"It just seems like yesterday I got here and made my debut against the Rebels," he said.

"Mate, to be honest I'm just going to enjoy the moment. I've said this before, at times over the last few years I've probably just showed up to play and just tried to get through the motions whereas now I haven't set any plans.

"For me, it's just enjoy the moment, live in it and whenever I get the chance to wear the jersey just do it with pride. And I know now that I've got, what, only four to five months before I'm on the road again on my gypsy tour, so to speak."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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