Although All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino is a veteran of 67 Tests, he is still highly motivated to prove himself in the international arena.
The 33-year-old has been the world champions’ first-choice blindside flanker for several years now and although he has seen off loose forwards like Liam Messam, who has moved over to Sevens in a bid to win a gold medal at the Olympics, and Victor Vito, who has signed with Top 14 outfit La Rochelle, he faces a new challenger in Highlanders enforcer Elliott Dixon.
Dixon along with Hurricanes tearaway Ardie Savea were two of six new faces in All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s squad for the upcoming series against Wales.
And Kaino revealed that the emergence of his younger counterparts will be used as inspiration by him.
“I use their enthusiasm and a lot of the things they bring to the table as motivation,” he told Fairfax Media.
The skill-sets they bring, I don’t have them, and at training I try to add them to my arsenal. They’re fresh, energetic little fellas and you try to feed off that and add it to your daily All Black life. It can only be a positive.
“The exciting part is bringing those players in and seeing the final product we can have here with the All Blacks.
“We want to go up on the scale from where we were last year, and the challenge for us is try and improve on how we played and the pace and physicality of our game.”
Although Kaino might not boast the skill-sets of those younger loose forwards, his style of play offers different attributes which still make him an important member of the All Blacks pack.
“I’ve got a few tricks of the trade,” he added.
“They love playing out wide, they have a lot of speed. I used to have that, but don’t any more.
“It’s just an ongoing improvement process.”