Pu­ni­vai lured to St Kents from Christ’s

The Press - - Sport - Richard Knowler

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.

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