Front-row Ethan de Groot was delighted to be called up to the All Blacks squad after missing out on the series against Ireland.
Interestingly De Groot’s call-up coincided with his birthday in what he described as a “hell of a present” as he linked up with the under-pressure squad for their two-Test tour of South Africa.
Upset to miss the series against Ireland
The Highlanders man said he was “gutted” to miss the series against Ireland and worked to earn his place in the squad again.
“I’m just stoked, stoked to get back in there,” De Groot told 1 News.
“I was pretty gutted when I didn’t get named in the Steinlager Series, so just went away and put in a bit of work and stoked to be back in.”
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster was unaware that the squad announcement was on De Groot’s birthday but was impressed with how hard the prop worked to slim down and improve his fitness to put himself in a position to be recalled to the squad.
“Actually, I didn’t know it was his birthday. You should have told me before this. I’m sure he enjoyed the phone call,” Foster told media on Friday.
“Delighted with Ethan de Groot coming in. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do the last six or seven weeks. A lot leaner, a lot fitter, and excited with his selection.
“He’s dropped quite a bit of weight. He’s bouncing around and he’s still a new All Black with lots to learn, but, like I said, got a lot of faith in him long-term. We just need him to get the levels that we need him to.”
Turning negatives in positives
De Groot said the omission for the Irish series was difficult, but he did his best to respond positively and work his way back into the squad.
“I’ve lost a few kilos. I won’t say how much, but I’ve been working hard,” De Groot said.
“You’ve just got to turn a negative into a positive and look at it as an opportunity. That’s sort of how I looked at it. Obviously felt sorry for myself for a couple of days, but just got to get back on the horse.”