Prop back in the game

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Blues prop Ethan de Groot is part of Rugby Southland's academy system and hopes to one day play for the Stags.

TEENAGE prop Ethan de Groot has his sights on the Stags, although for the moment he is just happy to get the chance to play rugby again.

de Groot is part of Rugby Southland’s academy system and is regarded by many as a Stags prospect. He has progressed through the Southland age-group ranks and impressed for Southland Boys’ High School in 2016 in its rise to South Island champions.

After leaving school he had surgery on a troublesome shoulder. Two games into his introduction to senior club rugby last year, he was sidelined again.

He required surgery on his shoulder for a second time and missed the remainder of the 2017 season.

de Groot conceded that not only did he miss a valuable year in his propping development, he stopped training and it had a physical impact. The 19-year-old got up to 133kg before knuckling down to drop 11kg.

He has returned to senior rugby ranks, this time with Blues after he initially started out at Pirates-Old Boys last year.

“I’m starting to get back into nick now. I’m loving it at Blues.”

Blues have won one game from four outings so far this season, which included a big 41-12 loss on Saturday at the hands of de Groot’s former team, Pirates-Old Boys.

“We are still a young team. Hopefully come the second round we can start to get a bit of rhythm going and start to get a few more wins.”

de Groot spent most of his high school days at Gore High, but left in Year 12 with the thought he would become an electrician. It turns out he didn’t enjoy it all that much and he decided to return to school, but this time in Invercargill at Southland Boys’ High School.

Many of his 2016 Southland Boys’ team-mates are now part of the Rugby Southland academy and are also now dipping their toes into the world of senior club rugby – a world which de Groot said matched the speed of schoolboy play, but was far more physical.

That group of players have their sights on pulling on the Stags jersey one day, de Groot said.

“I’ve always wanted to play for the Stags. I’ll give it a good crack this year, but I’m planning to stick around for a few years so if it’s not this year hopefully I will get to it at some stage.”

It is a juggling act for de Groot as he balances working for Henderson Construction as a building apprentice with his busy training schedule.

de Groot is a loosehead prop, the same position new Stags coach Dave Hewett carved out his career as a Super Rugby player and as an All Black.

de Groot said he hadn’t yet met Hewett and been provided the opportunity to chew over the art of propping up a scrum.

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