Sam Lane has been released from his Waratahs contract, at his own request, to get as much game-time as possible after surgery on both knees.
The 21-year-old Lane played superbly in his Super Rugby debut for the Reds on April 6 last year, when they beat the Brumbies 20-13, with the rookie pivot setting up one of the two Reds tries with a chip and chase and kick ahead, as well as goaling two penalties and two conversions.
But his start at flyhalf in the Reds' next match, against the Stormers in Brisbane, lasted just over three minutes before he tore anterior cruciate ligaments trying to evade a tackle by Stormers centre Juan de Jongh, and he was ruled out of rugby for the rest of 2012.
Lane, who had attended Bishops Prep in Cape Town for two-and-a-half years while his father, renowned international coach Tim Lane, was assistant coach of the Springboks, then returned to school in Sydney, but came back to South Africa for four years from age 16 to 20.
He completed his final two years of schooling at Bishops, where he was first XV captain in 2009 and represented Western Province Schools at Craven Week. He attended the Western Province Rugby Institute in Stellenbosch in 2010 and played for WP under 19 and under 21.
He earned his first selection for the WP Vodacom Cup team at age 19 but in March 2011 tore anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee while playing for WP against the Falcons in Kempton Park. He was out for six months before returning to play for WP Under-21 in September 2011.
After four years away from his family in Sydney, he then decided to return to Australia, where after playing for the Reds, he opted this year to return home to Sydney to play for the Waratahs.
However, after going through the full Waratahs off-season conditioning and skills programme, Lane decided recently that rather than wait for playing opportunities at Super Rugby level, his most beneficial option would be to return to club rugby, for a while at least, to enable him to play every weekend.
"I need to get as much game-time as possible," Lane said in an exclusive interview with this website.
"After surgery on one knee in March 2011 and the other knee in April 2012, I've done many months of rehab and conditioning in the last two years but haven't played much rugby.
"I need to get used to the contact and collisions of matches and to readjust to having to make decisions and perform with skill under pressure.
"I think my best option is to play club rugby for Manly for the immediate future. We've played Sevens tournaments on the last two weekends and when the club competition gets underway I hope to play 80 minutes each Saturday."
Lane added: "I'm only 21 years old so hope to play rugby for a long time and my goal is still to play Super Rugby, but I'm not going to look for short-cuts. After a few months of playing club rugby every week I hope to be playing well enough to be a candidate for Super Rugby once again."
Lane's knee has held up well in contact sessions at training and in the Sevens games he's played, which gives him confidence that the hard work in rehab is paying off.
"I'm excited about the season," Lane concluded. "I'm hoping that if I continue to work hard and play a lot of rugby, my ambitions will be back on track."
By Len Kaplan