Super Rugby Pacific: Scott Robertson influence helped Melani Nanai decide his future

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Back three player Melani Nanai “just couldn’t deny Razor” after signing for the Crusaders ahead of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Nanai will feature for Scott Robertson’s defending champions in the upcoming campaign, looking to reignite his career after struggling with injuries at Worcester Warriors.

He left the Blues in 2019 to sign for the Premiership club, but it proved to be a frustrating time for the speedster.

Struggles in England

Injuries hampered his time there, while the Covid pandemic made it difficult for the back to adapt in England.

Now back in New Zealand after leaving the Warriors following the conclusion of the 2021/22 season, Nanai discussed why he signed for the Crusaders.

“There were a lot of things. Just when I first dealt with them, a lot of teams took a while to deal with contracts and stuff, but the way the Crusaders have dealt with everything,” he told Stuff.

“They got me down to see the physios and everything. First meeting with the physios, I knew they were pretty good and a lot of the best physios I’ve been around.

“Obviously, with my career and injuries, I wanted to be around a good medical team.

“And, obviously with Razor, and the way he talked to me and the way he was leading me towards the contract, I just couldn’t deny Razor. Once I met all the staff and players, I was happy with my decision. Everyone was welcoming and fun to be around.”

“It was really difficult (in England). For me, the years I’ve been here in Super Rugby, I was barely injured.

“I like to play rugby every single week, it’s what I do, it’s what I love. To not be able to it, it was a really challenging time. And especially with Covid, a lot of lockdowns, we couldn’t really get out. It was a tough time overseas for me, the wife and kids.”

Depth of squad

Nanai understands that the Crusaders are stacked with quality but is relishing the chance of attempting to get into the squad.

“Definitely All Blacks calibre backs we have over here. But it’s something that I did look at coming to the Crusaders. I’m not willing to shy away from any challenges,” he added.

“I know where I’m at in my career, and I’m still willing to push myself in that aspect and see where I go from here.”

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