It was a return to Super Rugby but Zac Guildford’s Waratahs debut felt like a fresh start for the former All Black.
Sitting at home on Saturday afternoon, the time leading into the match dragged on but once he arrived at Allianz Stadium, it was business as usual.
The Waratahs outside back showed some scintillating attacking weapons in his first official outing as a NSW player and went just centimetres shy of claiming a first-up try at Allianz Stadium.
A stint in France, cut short by a season, made him homesick for the attack-heavy southern hemisphere competition and eager to work his way towards another Super Rugby opportunity.
Guildford spent last season in New Zealand’s provincial competition before Daryl Gibson showed some serious interest in bringing the talented 27-year-old back to Super Rugby.
The former Crusaders and Hurricanes player was sounded out by some New Zealand franchises but said Gibson was the first to show him a concrete second chance.
Gibson’s was a familiar face for Guildford, who played at the Crusaders when the former All Black centre was an assistant coach.
“There was a little bit of interest but they were sort of mucking around and Gibbo put pen and paper in front of me,” he said.
“He’s a great coach and had a good relationship with him at the Crusaders so it was a great opportunity.”
Guildford is quick to admit that the Waratahs’ running rugby was a major carrot when debating whether to make the trans-Tasman move, a style into which he has seamlessly slotted.
“He (Gibson) said, ‘The Waratahs like playing running rugby, they don’t kick too much,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, cool. That suits me because I can’t really kick anyway’,” he said.
“I mean the Waratahs have been a great team for a few years now after not reaching the standards they would have liked to in previous years so I’m just thrilled to be part of it.”
Guildford will face a sterner test against powerful winger Henry Speight when the Waratahs face the Brumbies this Friday but it’s a challenge for which he is prepared.
“I manage to mark him a few times when he was playing back in New Zealand, I’ve kept a close eye on him since so I know what he’s about.
“In the tackle, he’s a pretty hard man to pull down. You don’t want to get into a game of scrag otherwise he’ll push you off.”
Both the Waratahs and Brumbies scored bonus point wins in round one but it was the Canberrans who were most convincing in the week, with a seven try to one win over last year’s finalists, the Hurricanes.
The fierce rivals both showed their defensive prowess in wins but Guildford is confident they can manage a balance between attack and defence in round two.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” he said.
“You’ve seen their D Line against a very threatening Hurricanes team and we’re going to have to come up with a few ways to manipulate them and ways around them because they did look pretty strong.
“I’m sure we’ll pick them during the week and find a few holes hopefully.”
The Brumbies host the Waratahs at GIO Stadium, Canberra on Friday night at 7:40pm AEDT.