first_imgPhoto: JOHN DAVIDSON/PHOTOSPORT (Fulltime in the semifinal meant it dawned on Aaron Cruden that his time in New Zealand rugby was up) The Chiefs co-captain’s playing days in NZ drew to a close in his side’s 27-13 Super Rugby semifinal defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.It was immediately clear after fulltime just how much the Chiefs meant to Cruden, and how much of a different turn his career is about to take, with the influential first five-eighth wiping away tears as it dawned on him that that was it.After six seasons and 89 appearances with the franchise along with 50 tests for the All Blacks, the 28-year-old will soon jet off to join Montpellier on a three-year deal, reportedly worth NZ$3.6 million, which may very well spell the end of his playing days in this country.”Yeah you never know, I might do a Beaver and come back in a few years,” he quipped post-match, in reference to team-mate Stephen Donald.But aside from the jest, Cruden was preparing himself for a lot of sad farewells.”It is pretty emotional, I’m quite an emotional guy,” he said. “And to leave some of these guys that I’ve been grinding away with for a number of years now will be pretty hard.”But at the same time I’ve been very blessed to play rugby in this country for a long time.”I’ve made a lot of good friends, have a lot of fond memories, and those are certainly things I’ll cherish when I move on.”In particular, Cruden’s partnership with coach Dave Rennie is one of them. Having been under his stewardship at Manawatu and with the New Zealand Under-20s, it was taken to new levels at the Chiefs, when the duo both arrived in 2012.”A lot of the boys think it’s a father-son relationship, they give me a bit of stick for being the coach’s son,” Cruden quipped.”He was one guy that gave me an opportunity when a few people wouldn’t, back in the day. And he’s been more than a coach to me, he’s been a bit of a mentor, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work with Rens.”Ironically, with Rennie departing to coach Glasgow, the duo’s teams have been drawn in the same pool for the European Cup so the pair will be catching up over there before too long.And it’s a pretty quickfire transition into the northern hemisphere season. In and around the celebrations and farewells, there’s a few things to sort out before Cruden pulls on his new kit.”We’ve got to book some flights,” he said. “My team starts their competition on the 27th of August over in France. So I think we’ll spend maybe another 10 days, two weeks here in New Zealand just sorting out all the admin sort of things that we need to get done, and tidying up the house, and then we’ll get on the plane and get over there.”last_img

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