With accidents sidelining their high midfield choices, a promising begin to the Chiefs’ 2023 season seemed to be on the ropes, that was till Daniel Rona stepped up and confirmed out.
All Blacks Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown have every been out injured for the Chiefs in 2023, the previous having not touched the pitch in any respect whereas rehabbing an ACL harm suffered in final yr’s Bledisloe Cup match. Add to that All Blacks XV standout Alex Nankivell’s absence and the midfield shares seemed to be operating skinny in Waikato.
Daniel Rona started 2023 as a concreter and was initially solely introduced into the Chiefs setting on a 30-day coaching contract, however on Friday revealed he has now put pen to paper on a three-year deal.
“I think it will come out next week,” Rona told SENZ The Run Home. “I’m lucky enough to have signed on (with the Chiefs) for the next three years.
“I have always wanted to be a Chief and when they came to me and gave me the opportunity to sign on, I was keen as.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else so we just got it done.”
The opportunity to start in the Chiefs’ No 13 jersey, usually reserved for 59-cap All Black Anton Lienert-Brown or soon-to-be Munster centre Alex Nankivell, was unexpected for Rona, but an opportunity the 23-year-old has certainly made the most of.
Initially, Rona’s Super Rugby quality came through in his defence, with subtle work on attack allowing the Chiefs’ stars to shine out wide. But, against the Highlanders he put more of his skillset on display, placing an incredible chip kick into the 22 where only Shaun Stevenson could get it for one of the try-assists of the season, before claiming two tries himself.
“It definitely hasn’t been easy,” Rona said, reflecting on his Super Rugby journey. “It took me quite a few weeks to get used to the workload and the physicality. I’ve started to come right but I’m just loving being in (the thick) of it at the moment.
“I’m going to keep putting my best foot forward.”
The table-topping Chiefs opted to keep Rona in the starting lineup for Anton Lienert-Brown’s return, playing the All Black at inside centre while bringing Alex Nankivell off the bench against the Highlanders. Coach Clayton McMillan has since returned to his starting combination of Lienert-Brown and Nankivell.