Ex-Stags stalwart in new league
When Pehi Te Whare shifted from Hamilton to Invercargill in 2005, it was supposedly for a three-month trial period.
Rugby Southland wanted to have a look at the then 21-year-old New Zealand Colts utility back, and Te Whare wanted a shot at New Zealand's provincial big time.
He got that shot, making his debut against the British and Irish Lions at Rugby Park in 2005 from the bench.
Later that season he started in eight of the Stags' nine NPC games.
He continued to play for the Stags through to 2009, racking up 55 games for the province and progressing to both the New Zealand Maori and the Highlanders.
His three-month trial extended to an integral role for Southland rugby over five years.
Another four years on from that last game for the Stags, the boy from the King Country remains in Southland and doesn't plan on leaving.
"I was only supposed to be down here for three months on a trial and nine years later I'm still here. I obviously enjoy the people down here, and I don't see myself moving back any time soon," he said.
He has now taken on another sporting challenge in his adopted province.
With provincial rugby behind him, the 30-year-old will line up for the Southland Rams rugby league team and try to help them to some success in their South Island provincial campaign.
Te Whare wants to help the Rams continue to improve. He said being a fulltime rugby player with the Stags presented different challenges to playing for the Rams in having to juggle work and training.
"It's really exciting for me. I've pretty much got a new challenge and a new cause. I want to stay focused and try do my best for the Rams," he said.
"We're all in the same boat [in the Rams]. We are all trying to juggle everything. I've just started a bricklaying job, and I'm out in the freezing cold laying bricks all day, and then off to training and in the cold again, but everyone is in the same boat."
The Southland league side will open its 2014 season on Saturday against Otago at the Les George Oval, near Invercargill.
Te Whare said he'd hada whirlwind introduction to the 13-man code. He originally lined up for the Cowboys in the club league competition to gain a bit of fitness for the club rugby season, during which he played for Blues.
After impressing, Te Whare was snapped up by the Rams selectors and now looks set to line up at centre throughout the representative league season.
"It's all new to me, I'm still learning. But they've just said to me ‘get the ball and run' so I can do that," he said.
Te Whare has set himself some goals and admits the prospect of being selected in the South Island team, which will play the New Zealand Universities side in the curtainraiser to the Kiwis-England test in November, had some appeal.
"I wasn't just doing this as a bit of challenge and fitness but that is something.
"That game would be great to play in. It would be the cherry on the top."
- The Southland Times