Big time beckons for college rugby star
A path to the big time is beckoning for one blockbusting Wairarapa rugby player.
Wairarapa College forward Sam Smith has been named in the National Ma¯ori Under-18 team, which will play New Zealand Schools Barbarians and Tonga Under-18 later this month.
Smith’s selection comes after a strong season for his high school team, culminating in him being named Wairarapa Bush college player of the year.
His father Garry Smith, also Wairarapa College head coach, said he was proud of his son’s achievement. ‘‘Oh, we’re rapt,’’ he said. ‘‘He set some goals around this time last year, worked really hard in the off-season, and now he’s ticked off pretty much all of them.’’
A versatile forward. Smith normally plays number eight but there’s a chance he’ll switch to number seven for the Ma¯ori side.
He’s also played for the Hurricanes Under-16 team and is hoping to make the Hurricanes Under-18 side in the not-so-distant future.
Chair of New Zealand Rugby Ma¯ori Board, Farah Palmer, announced the team , many of whom were part of New Zealand Rugby’s E Tu¯ Toa in 2017.
E Tu¯ Toa is a nationwide pro- gramme which uses rugby as a vehicle for young Ma¯ori to connect with their culture and learn wider life skills.
Palmer said the national side was created to encourage talented young Ma¯ori to stay in rugby and provide them with development opportunities both on and off the field.
‘‘The Under 18 Ma¯ori Team provides a genuine rugby pathway for rangatahi (youth) to step up from representing their regions to higher honours,’’ she said.
‘‘What makes this team different is the connection of all players and coaches to ‘Te Ao Ma¯ori’ the Ma¯ori World.
‘‘It’s the foundation of all our camps, with players and coaches learning waiata, haka and tikanga which enhance their wellbeing and achievements in rugby and life.’’
This is the second year the Under 18 Ma¯ori team has been selected.
Players from the 2016 side went on to represent their respective unions at the recent Jock Hobbs National U19 tournament, as well as achieving selection for other national age-grade sides and Super Rugby academies.
Sam Smith, who is enjoying a breakout season, makes a run upfield.