Punivai lured to St Kents from Christ’s
A decision by St Kentigern College to recruit rugby star Isaiah Punivai from Christ’s College in Canterbury appears to make a mockery of David Hodge’s statement that boys move to the Auckland school for a superior education.
Punivai, who captained the Christ’s College 1st XV and was selected for the New Zealand secondary schools team in 2017, left Christchurch after he was offered a rugby scholarship by St Kentigern this year.
A centre, who last season scored a try that was voted as broadcaster Sky’s fan try of the year, Punivai was a valued member of the St Kentigern 1st XV in the 1A competition in Auckland. This year he also captained the New Zealand secondary schools side, and was joined by four team-mates from the St Kentigern 1st XV in a squad coached by Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar.
Punivai had attended Christ’s College since he was a year nine student. After the 2017 rugby calendar had closed, he dropped a bombshell by declaring he was moving to Auckland to attend St Kentigern for his final school year. It’s understood Christ’s College, whose 1st XV is coached by former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne, felt they could do little to retain Punivai.
Earlier this week, St Kentigern head Hodge was adamant his school has done nothing wrong. Hodge said that St Kentigern had been wrongly accused of poaching players: ‘‘We don’t recruit players because we don’t need to.
‘‘It’s quite clear that the reason that so many young boys and their families want to come to St Kentigern is because of the quality of the education that they get here,’’ Hodge told Radio Sport.
Hodge’s remarks are unlikely to gain much traction at Christ’s College, a well-established private school that boasts it provides students with a quality education.
Punivai’s move to Auckland was complicated by having already signed a contract with the Canterbury provincial union, and had told the Crusaders he will attend their academy next year.
Despite representing St Kents, Punivai, who turns 19 in January, still captained the Crusaders under-18 team this season which required him to commute between the north and south islands.
Punivai’s decision to enrol at St Kents was not greeted warmly by some other 1st XV coaches in Canterbury. Among their concerns were that it could send mixed messages to other teenagers who could be tempted to sign rugby scholarships with other schools outside the region.