All Black coach Graham Henry was delighted with prolific wing Sitiveni Sivivatu's performance against Fiji and revealed that he had been worried about whether he still has what it takes to cut it at the highest level.
When Henry named his Tri-Nations squad he made it clear that certain players were very much on the outer and singled out Sivivatu's poor Super Rugby form as a particular concern, but the 29-year-old flyer produced a good display against Fiji that has probably won him a spot in the All Blacks' starting XV against the Springboks this weekend.
Sivivatu is desperate to end his international career by playing at the World Cup before he leaves to play club rugby in France, and took a step towards being included in Henry's final squad with his assured performance at Carisbrook.
Henry described him as 'the best player on the park for the first 40' in the game against Fiji, before revealing that he had wondered whether the 44 Test veteran had enough gas in the tank for a World Cup campaign.
He told the Sunday Star Times: "I guess sometimes you get past your use-by date and we were wondering whether he was past his. I think he showed [on Friday night] there is still a bit there. We'll give him another opportunity and see how he goes against better opposition."
The game against Fiji was Sivivatu's first Test match appearance for the All Blacks since he was waylaid by injury in 2009, and Henry said that he had earned another chance with his performance in Dunedin - indicating that he is likely to be named in the starting line-up for the match against the Springboks in Wellington this weekend.
Henry commented: "He's been a great servant of ours, and has played some outstanding footy at times, we know he has got the talent.
"He hadn't played for the All Blacks since Marseille, and he'd had a shoulder reconstruction and then had knee problems. He had a quiet Super 15, and it was just whether it's still there and whether the desire is still there," he said.
Sivivatu himself seems under no illusions about the fact that he is fighting for his spot in the team, and he is ready to stake his claim with a big performance against the Springboks in Wellington.
"The way I think about it, it's either this week or it's never. That's the biggest driving force for me now. So I just have to continue to work hard, play my game and if I'm good enough, I'm good enough," he said.
Henry explained that the majority of the players who featured against fiji would be in the mix for New Zealand's first Tri-Nations game this weekend, but added that he would make a few changes.
"A lot of players who played last night will play next week and there will be one or two changes," he said. "There will be continuity. I'd imagine at least two-thirds will play again next week."
One player who definitely will be involved is wily scrumhalf Piri Weepu who made an impressive cameo off the bench in Dunedin. He was originally meant to play for Wellington in the National Provincial Championship on Saturday but was pulled out of the game as he is simply to valuable for the All Blacks.
"He'd play four or five games a day if they were available, but he's a pretty special player," said Henry. "He's done enough and will get another trot next week. He's an All Black and we'll look after him."
On the injury front, utility back Isaia Toeava is appernetly not much more than a week away from a return, while prop Tony Woodcock and outside back Israel Dagg will make a return to provincial rugby before the second half of the Tri-Nations.
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