Wallaby wing Cooper Vuna has signed a two-year contract extension with the Melbourne-based Rebels.
Vuna’s manager Peter Jess said the 25-year-old is in great shape and plans to regain a place in the
Wallaby squad after being omitted from the end-of-year touring party by showing good form in a Rebels jersey.
"He is pleased," Jess told WA Today about Vuna’s delight of re-signing with the Rebels.
"It is a platform for him to get back into the Wallabies squad.
"It is an exciting time for him. It is the fittest he has been. He has performed very well on the track and the club is very pleased with him."
Meanwhile, loose forward Jarrod Saffy has spoken of the thrill at being back from injury and targeting a starting spot for Round One of the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Saffy, who made the most tackles in the entire competition in the Rebels’ inaugural 2011 season, suffered a bulging disc in a training mishap last season, which effectively ruled him out of the second half of the campaign.
Initially there were concerns that the South-African born forward would be unable to return to professional, contact sport.
However, months of hard work, extensive rehabilitation and dedication have seen Saffy finally depart ‘team rehab’ and join the main group, with a final scan to take place before Christmas.
“I left Tom English in the rehab group two weeks ago and got promoted through to start doing some team training,” explains Saffy.
”I’m doing full training without live contact, but when we come back in January hopefully the scan has gone well and I’m straight into full contact.
“The neck feels good; I haven’t had any issues. I’m doing a lot of strengthening work with a special physio, Kieser training. It’s basically been using a machine that strengthens different parts of your body, and I’ve obviously been focusing on my neck. I have never used the machine before, but my neck is now actually stronger than it was before I was injured.”
With the departures of back row forwards Tom Chamberlain and Michael Lipman, the Rebels have strengthened heavily in that area by bringing in Kiwi Scott Fuglistaller and Wallaby Scott Higginbotham. Saffy knows regaining his place is not just a matter of proving he is fit enough to play again.
“I’m hopefully on track for Round One, and I’m looking forward to getting some game time in the trial against the Waratahs in Tassie,” Saffy said.
“Every year, you need to earn your spot and this year there is definitely increased competition in the back row. It will be good for our squad and the standards that we set; we bring out quality in each other, and a fierce battle for starting spots will only be a positive.”
The former NRL Premiership player has been an interested onlooker as former Bronco Bryce Hegarty joins the Rebels, and high-profile code-crosser Israel Folau joins the Waratahs.
“Obviously the transition is a little bit different [than mine], because I moved into the forwards here, but there is a lot more crossover at the moment which creates a bit of hype and buzz. It’s a real positive,” said Saffy.
“Bryce [Hegarty] is an absolute freak; he really could be anything. I don’t want to curse him, but hopefully he gets some game time next year because he really looks like he has what it takes.
“It will be interesting to see Izzy [Folau] in Hobart as well; he is such an incredible athlete, and it’s hard to compare him to anybody else. We have seen Lote [Tuqiri] and Dell [Wendell Sailor] transition successfully so there is no reason why he shouldn’t.”
Saffy has enjoyed watching the Rebels grow in his two seasons at the club, and become an integral part of the Melbourne sporting landscape.
“We have made a great impact on the city thus far and had huge support in first two seasons,” he said.
“I’m really proud of where we are in the community, and of all the hours we have put in growing the game in Victoria through the schools and the clubs.
“It is all part of the culture we are developing and players are voluntarily putting hands up to get involved in the community. Everybody is excited to be part of it and there is a great feeling around the club.
“Heading into our third season, hopefully a little bit more success will help grow that momentum and support for the club.
“There were a couple of games at home last year we could have won against the Cheetahs and the Bulls, so if we can win a few more games and those close ones at home in 2013 then hopefully we will keep the crowds coming back for more.”
Saffy’s own personal ambitions remain high but tempered, as a result of his injury lay-off.
“I want to play every minute of every game, and I do have aspirations to play at a higher level, but first I need to get through my final steps of training and get back to playing. They’re my first goals; to earn my spot in the team, be at 100% health and in the best condition possible.”
The Rebels will face the Waratahs in Hobart on February 2 and the Hurricanes in Geelong a week later in their pre-season hit-outs before hosting the Western Force in the Round One on February 15.