Waratahs captain Michael Hooper was a Super Rugby spectator for the first time in close to six years on Friday night, and he admits he ‘struggled’ with the unfamiliar role.
Hooper, who has only missed 53 minutes of Super Rugby since joining the Waratahs in 2013, will likely be out for a month with a hamstring injury, but he is throwing everything into trying to return as quickly as possible.
Injuries have been so few and far between for the 26-year-old that he wasn’t quite sure what had happened when he pulled up sore 15 minutes into the third Test.
“I was over the ball, obviously got hit pretty well by their big prop and all my weight just went to one side of my body and loaded it up,” he said.
“I thought I maybe just stretched it a bit initially and then I realised when I tried to take off running again that something wasn't quite right in there, something I hadn't felt before.
“I was going to try and give it a go to stay on the park for that game which was so exciting, couldn't do it though unfortunately.”
The reality hit home for Hooper on Friday night when he watched the Waratahs edge past the Rebels at his parents’ house, with the game in the balance until the final stages.
“It was extremely difficult,” he said.
“It's a really new space for me to be in, so I really struggled, I was pacing, I was up and down.
“I went to my mum and dad's to watch it, and they were more relaxed than usual, which they were a bit pleased about but we were all out of the seats at the end.
“In that last five minutes, it's hard to watch but so happy for Bernard (acting captain Bernard Foley) and the team to get a result.”
The flanker hopes he will see Super Rugby again this season, with the Waratahs on track for their first finals campaign, throwing his energy into recovery.
“I wouldn't rule it out (a Super Rugby return),” he said.
“With these types of things, and from seeking a lot of information about it, it's a real suck it and see type thing and the way the body heals is up in the air a lot of the time.
“You'll have some guys who can bounce back from these really quick and some guys take a bit longer.
“So, I don't know where I sit in that and I've been lucky to not be in this category for a while, so taking each day by day.”
The Waratahs take on the Sunwolves on Saturday July 7, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.