Segner grows German rugby footprint in New Zealand
Blues loose forward, German-born Anton Segner's pathfinding move to follow his dream and play rugby in New Zealand is starting to affect others.
A player from his SC1880 Frankfurt club in Germany is now at Christchurch Boys' High School, another player is at Palmerston North Boys' High, while after Saturday's game against the Chiefs, he spied a club jersey among the crowd. He went over to check it out and found another boy was attending Tauranga Boys' High School.
"It's a bit to do with what I have done, but also, it's for the same reason I came over. In my opinion, New Zealand is the best rugby nation in the world and has the best pool of players to choose from for the All Blacks.
"With what I am doing over here, one of my main purposes is to inspire other young German rugby players, or non-rugby nation players, to go to a country like New Zealand where it is part of their culture and to give it a good crack. Because it is good fun, and it does pay off if you do work hard."
There is also interest in Germany with how he is doing. With regular family contact, his father brought two friends to New Zealand to see the Blues play the Crusaders and the Force because they were intrigued to see what Segner was doing in New Zealand.
"It was really cool to catch up with them and show them my life over here in New Zealand."
Segner's capacity for hard work is an ideal fit for the Blues and makes him a more than useful member of the side's quality loose forward unit. And he has appreciated the opportunities he has been given beyond his expectations when making the squad.
"I was surprised with the game time I got in my first year. When I first signed the contract, I was just happy to be in and around the environment and didn't expect to get seven games. I was grateful for the coaches' trust and for lining me up for those games.
"This year I'm looking to build on that and improve. I've had many good conversations with the coaches around the back end of last year on my work-ons, and what my strengths are because I'm a true believer in your strength is what sets you apart and what makes you unique. And in order to keep those as your strengths, you have to work on them too."
He has put on two kilograms and is working hard to keep them on and has been working with Blues dietary staff to try and build on that all the time without losing his trademark speed around the ground.
"That's going good as I'm up to 108kgs, and I'm feeling good playing at that weight. The extra weight has made a real difference in my contact and putting a bit of oomph behind my tackles."
Having Dalton Papali'i moving through the ranks with the All Blacks was a bonus in Segner's development as he was able to discuss things with him, along with fellow All Blacks Hoskins Sotutu and Akira Ioane.
Seeing them head off on tour with the All Blacks last year and seeing Papali'i step up was good to watch.
"Seeing them succeed, and especially to see Dalton do what he did, made my happy but also then to pick his brains when he comes back into this environment to see what new stuff he's learned and what he can feed me knowledge-wise is great."
Again, in 2023, Segner has had to wait his chance, getting his first start in the fifth-round game against the Force and then being retained for the heavyweight contest against the Chiefs.
But he took advantage of the development programme with the A team alongside all the squad players who were not in the main starting XV to have game time.
"That ensures when you do get the call-up you are ready to go."
Misfortune during last season's Bunnings NPC season with Tasman, when he suffered three head knocks that reduced his season to only three games, meant he applied himself earlier to being prepared for the Blues' pre-season. That attitude was borne out when stepping up to his first start of the season for a seamless contribution.
⬆️ @Highlanders are the big movers in round 6. How's your team looking? #SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/tJ01boRnc0— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 2, 2023