Tyler Bleyendaal is confident the dark days of injury are behind him.
Since arriving in January 2015 the New Zealander has struggled to enjoy a prolonged run in Munster colours due to a series of problems.
His talent is without question: indeed, he was voted the province’s 2016–17 player of the year but it seemed that every time he built up a head of steam all his hard work was undone by another setback including a serious neck issue. Now 28, Bleyendaal is confident the bad days are over.
“I’m great,” he enthuses. “I have had no excuses since coming back from my injuries.
“I am grateful to the medical team who gave me time to get better. The problem was a disc injury in the neck, just one of those things you have to let settle.
“I guess, for my longevity and my career, we gave it the time to be able to run into contact and now I’m excited to be able to do that,”
Bleyendaal will take over the out-half jersey against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday and looks forward to a lengthy run of Guinness PRO14 games while Joey Carbery is on Ireland duty.
“Across the squad, there are battles for positions and I think Joey and I are in that situation,” says Tyler of the out-half berth.
“But he’s the one on the pitch at the moment and he’s been outstanding, especially through the Christmas period and in Europe.
“He has been leading our team, for such a young fella he’s one of the leaders in our team, and it’s obvious to everyone.
“Twenty successful goal-kicks out of 20 says it all and not a case of the media building it up.
“That’s an amazing run although there will be a day when he misses one only to get back up on the horse for the next kick.
“That’s a kicker’s mindset. He probably had an off-day against Castres but the way he responded, not just with his kicking but with his general game (has been amazing).”
Bleyendaal is relishing the chance to showcase his talents in the absence of Carbery.
“I am looking for some game-time myself,” he stresses.
I’ve done a lot of travelling for very little action. I’m always happy to be involved in any way I can be but if I’m in the team this week, I will be absolutely excited. It’s a really exciting time with all our internationals away. Now we have four games over two periods for guys to get game-time. It is also a chance for them to put their hands up and say ‘I deserve to be in the team for the European quarter-final’.
"It’s our responsibility for the squad left over to prepare and play well and some individuals will do well out of that.”
Tyler is satisfied the Munster squad can do better than those of the last two seasons which reached the semi-finals but failed to progress.
“I think so,” he mused. “The bulk of the squad that experienced those losses and didn’t make the last step, that will build into the season. I think we have an exciting squad and if we can stay fit — and I know we have had some disappointing injuries on the weekend — but even if we can’t, then we’ve got the depth. I don’t think we had our best performance against Exeter but our grit and dogged determination got the result.
“That mindset is going to be important when it comes to the play-offs.”