All Blacks and Chiefs back Richard Kahui says that he is relieved to have gotten some game time under his belt after 10 months out of rugby.
Kahui had a shoulder reconstruction last year and then had to have extra key-hole surgery to repair scar tissue that was causing discomfort which delayed his return to rugby until last Friday.
The All Black is a major part of Chiefs coach Dave Rennie's plans for 2013 as they want to use Kahui in a similar role to the one that Sonny Bill Williams played for them last year.
Kahui came off the Chiefs bench against the Highlanders and played for 32 minutes on Friday.
While Kahui hadn't played for 10 months he had been training since August last year and he said that match fitness cannot be replaced by anything other than game time.
"You just can't replicate it no matter what you do," Kahui said while admitting that the pace of the game had taken its toll.
Kahui said that with around 15 minutes to go in their 19-7 victory over the Highlanders his legs felt a little heavy when he chased a kick through from Liam Messam.
However Kahui stressed that there is no fitness like match fitness and that he was pleased with the work he was able to achieve in his time on the field.
"There was obviously a bit of apprehension before the game, a little bit of nervousness, but to get through half an hour of footy and get a few touches felt good.
"I really wanted to get into the game and if you come off the bench sometimes you can float around and not touch the ball so I wanted to be real proactive, run off the forwards and get a few really good touches.
"I think I did that and felt strong in the contact area so there are a lot of positives to take out of that 30 minutes."
Kahui gave his reconstructed shoulder a good test with a few tackles but admitted that he still felt a little tentative in a couple of them.
"But I suppose for a first hit-out I made a few good tackles on it, felt really comfortable and from here I'll keep growing and keep getting better," he told Fairfax NZ News.
Kahui said that after another week of contact training he will be ready to start against the Blues at Mt Maunganui this Saturday if he is selected.
"I feel like I ticked a few boxes tonight and if I was asked to start I would happily start but even off the bench I wouldn't be bothered either way and there's still a lot to do to earn that starting jersey.
"Timmy (Nanai-Williams) has been playing well and Charlie Ngatai and co have been doing the job as well so if I want to start now that I'm healthy I'm going to have to work my way back in."
Kahui has agreed to leave New Zealand at the end of the season and play in Japan but he says his motivation and dedication to the Chiefs has not changed.
"I want the Chiefs to be the best and that's always been my motivation. For me I want to give my best for the team and that hasn't changed.
"Although I head away at the end of the year that's not changing my dedication to the team or what I want out of the season."
"I want us to win, I want us to be the best and to back up what we did last year and for me that's been the motivation for the last 10 months I've been trying to get my rehab and training right.
"I feel like I've put the hard work in now and it's time to contribute to the team and hopefully we can do what we've set out to do and that's win another title."