Building better rugby players and better men

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The New Zealand Māori U18 boys rugby team, Ngā Whatukura, are in camp ahead of their test against Fiji U18 tomorrow in Rotorua. But as our reporter Te Kuru Dewes discovers, it is about much more than a game.

Captain of the squad, Tiaki Fabish (Maniapoto) says, “So what makes it different is the culture, so it's just as much the culture, the Māoritanga side, as it is the rugby side. The Māoritanga helps bring us together, our history, our kaupapa, that's really what makes us strong and gives us something to fight for.”

The team is providing a platform for the boys to practice whanaungatanga.

Valance Yates (Ngāpuhi) says, “I knew coming into this camp was gonna be, not challenging, it was just good for me to reconnect with my culture and my Māori, it's been a while.”

Fabish says, “So at first it was a bit uncomfortable but boys who have done it before are more comfortable in that scene, stepped up, showed them that it's no-judge zone, everyone's welcome, gonna make mistakes but just laugh it off. So now everyone's a bit comfortable, bit more confident with their Māori side.”

Coach Kahu Carey (Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō) says it is about building tikanga, building better rugby players and building better men.

Way we view it is there's 25 future rangatira there. We want them to be leaders, whether its rugby, whether they're Māori All Blacks, whether they're doctors, whether they're nurses or whatever they are in the community. They actually stand up and [be] proud to be Māori,” says Carey.

After a week in camp, the team is starting to gel.

Carey says, “They get enough rugby when they're outside of this environment, they get plenty of coaching that side of it so when they're here our point of difference is obviously whakawhanaungatanga and learning our culture in bits and pieces. So for us, that's the big difference that connects us."

Fabish says, “First few days, you know boys are a bit shy in their shells, sticking with the boys they already knew but now connections, living together, boys are pretty strong connections, feeling quite comfortable with each other, ready for tomorrow.”

The match kicks off at 2pm Sunday at Rotorua Boys High School.