Kenatale has heart set on Super contract
Stags halfback Nemia Kenatale hopes to impress enough during the second half of the national provincial championship to earn a Super Rugby contract.
The 26-year-old, who will start against North Harbour tomorrow, has been impressive coming off the bench for Southland during the first five rounds of the competition, but he will be given more responsibility now that Jimmy Cowan has banked his 100th game for the province and is set to leave for the English premiership next week.
Cowan's younger brother Scott is playing in Italy, while 18-year-old Tayler Adams requires a dispensation from the New Zealand Rugby Union before he can play for the Stags.
Kenatale has played 25 tests for Fiji and was a member of the Highlanders' wider-training squad this year.
He managed four games for Pirates/Old Boys in the Southland premier club competition before being called away to the Pacific Nations Cup in Japan with Fiji.
Kenatale said training alongside 51-game All Black Cowan had been a boost for his career with the pair working together on his kicking and passing.
"A lot of experience, I've learnt a lot of things from him, he's been in the All Blacks and played at a World Cup," he said.
Kenatale said he had enjoyed his short apprenticeship getting a gauge of the NPC from the Southland bench and was eager to get more game time. "I'm looking forward to it, because I've had four games on the bench," he said.
"I respect [Cowan] as a senior player and I'll be excited if I get in the starting lineup this weekend."
Kenatale played in last year's World Cup for Fiji and scored a try against the All Blacks when the two teams met in the final test at Carisbrook in 2011.
Playing against the All Blacks was a memory Kenatale will treasure forever, he said.
"It was exciting, they are the No 1 team in the world," he said.
"I think that's the best game I've played in the whole of my rugby career and I scored a try."
Ultimately, Kenatale would love to get a full contract with a Super Rugby team.
He and Otago's Japanese halfback Fumiaki Tanaka have firmed as prospects to provide the backup to All Black Aaron Smith in Dunedin next season.
"That's my goal. I've been with the Highlanders wider training group this year and I want to play Super Rugby next year, it would be a good opportunity for me."
Kenatale said it had not been easy living away from home for the first time this year.
He missed the food and his family, but the cold hasn't bothered him as much as he thought it would - surprisingly he finds Fiji's weather a bit hot for him. The move had also been made easier by having his Fijian test team-mate Talemaitoga Tuapati alongside him in the Southland team.
"He's been here for about four years now so it makes it easier for me," Kenatale said.
Scott Eade will also start for Southland despite sitting out training this week with a recurrence of his dodgy hamstring, while Alex Ryan comes into the second row replacing Michael Fatialofa.
Former Southland player Michael Earwaker died earlier this week.
Earwaker played in the midfield for Tokanui.
He played eight games for Southland in 1956 and was also a talented track athlete.
SOUTHLAND Robbie Robinson, Kade Poki, Cardiff Vaega, Matt Saunders, Tim Cornforth, Scott Eade, Nemia Kenatale, Elliot Dixon, Tim Boys, Scott McKee, Alex Ryan, Josh Bekhuis, Nic Barrett, Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh (c). Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Tukiterangi Raimona, Hoani Macdonald, Dion Bates, Jimmy Cowan, Nathan Hohaia, Marty McKenzie.
The North Harbour team will be named today.
The Southland Times