All Blacks and Crusaders prop Owen Franks talks Achilles angst and tangling with the ‘Beast’

Tighthead prop Owen Franks could play his 100th test for the All Blacks against the Wallabies in Auckland next month.

PHOTOSPORT

Tighthead prop Owen Franks could play his 100th test for the All Blacks against the Wallabies in Auckland next month.

The days of when Owen Franks would plonk, plonk, plonk down the stairs on one foot are over.

Given the All Blacks and Crusaders tighthead prop weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 120kg, the sight of him gingerly travelling down a stairwell with one leg raised might be labelled comical until the full story is explained.

In a nutshell, it goes like this. The damage to his left Achilles tendon was so serious that when he rolled out of bed in the mornings he was unable to start plant two feet on the floor and start marching.

Owen Franks had to miss eight months of rugby while he recovered from surgery on his left Achilles tendon.

PHOTOSPORT

Owen Franks had to miss eight months of rugby while he recovered from surgery on his left Achilles tendon.

After the All Blacks played the Wallabies in Sydney in August it was time to get real. It was decided Franks, who had been relying on painkillers to get through games, needed to have an operation to ensure he could still keep rumbling towards the World Cup in Japan next year.

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He also required extensive therapy on the right Achilles, and after eight months away from rugby he finally returned for the Crusaders against Sunwolves on April 21.

All Blacks tighthead prop Owen Franks has won two World Cup medals and will be hunting for his third at the global ...

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All Blacks tighthead prop Owen Franks has won two World Cup medals and will be hunting for his third at the global tournament in Japan next year.

“It is just nice to be get out of the bed and walk normally, and not have to hop on one leg down the stairs,” Franks reflected ahead of the Crusaders’ Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Sharks in Christchurch on Saturday night.

“The longer it has been from the surgery last year, the better they are going. I am pretty close to 100 per cent.

“It is nice being able to train pain-free. I can move better all the time, and I think with tendons they take a long time.”

Franks played all three tests against France in June, and could earn his 100th cap against the Wallabies in Auckland next month.

The Crusaders’ forward pack to play the Sharks is bristling with experience and power. Between them captain Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Scott Barrett and Franks have played 371 tests.

Franks, 30, is also looking forward to mixing it up with Sharks cult figure and loosehead prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira in his 150th Super Rugby appearance.

The pair go back a long way. Franks first clashed with the Beast when he come as a replacement for Neemia Tialata when the All Blacks lost 28-19 to the Springboks in Bloemfontein in 2009.

He describes the Beast as a “stand-up guy” and has learned to drop his guard when they meet for post-match chats.

“Earlier in my career I tried keeping my distance because it (the job of being a prop) is pretty close and personal up front, but I have chatted to him a few times now and he is a real good guy. A respectable guy.”

The trick, said Franks, was to know how to flick the switch.

“It is more when the game time starts, you forget that you know the guy. It is similar to when I played my brother (Ben), you just forget it and get on with the job”

Sharks coach Robert du Preez has named an unchanged side from the one that beat the Jaguares 20-10 last weekend.

The Sharks have endured a bouncy ride this season, their inconsistency almost costing them a place in the playoffs. Successes against the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs are proof they can sting Kiwi teams.

Crusaders backs coach Brad Mooar ticked off the South African team’s threats: a willing pack, their offloads, a counter-attacking maestro in fullback Curwin Bosch and an accurate kicker in playmaker Robert du Preez junior.

Giving away penalties, especially early on, could have a predictable result.

“They are comfortable building their score in threes, particularly in that first quarter they have kicked more penalty goals than any other side,” Mooar noted. “And that is something we need to be very aware of.”

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Tim Perry. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.

Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder, Daniel du Preez, Jacques Vermeulen, Philip van der Walt, Ruan Botha, Tyler Paul, Thomas du Toit, Akker van der Merwe, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Hyron Andrews, Wian Vosloo, Cameron Wright, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi.

Referee: Mike Fraser

Kickoff: 7.35pm

 – Stuff

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