Highlanders Coltman, Fekitoa make ABs squad

RISING STAR: Malakai Fekitoa.
RISING STAR: Malakai Fekitoa.

When Malakai Fekitoa accepted a scholarship in 2009 to leave his home country of Tonga and move to New Zealand the most pressing issue was to convince the right people to give him a shot at playing in the Wesley College first XV.

The thought of one day playing for the world's most successful sporting team the All Blacks was far from his mind.

Yesterday though that became very close to reality when he was named in a 35-man All Black squad to prepare for the series next month against England.

Not surprisingly the 22-year-old's first move when he received the All Black news yesterday was a to make a call back to his home village in the Ha'apai Islands in Tonga.

Fekitoa comes from a family of 15 siblings.

"It is huge back home because everybody loves the All Blacks so it is massive for them. They told all of my cousins and I think they are all happy, but I told them it is just the beginning and hopefully I can go from there."

Not far from his thoughts yesterday was his late father who died in a car crash when Malakai was 14.

"I want to make my family proud and happy and for them to have something to be happy of. After losing our dad we have been going downhill but to have this season so far they have been very happy."

The All Blacks was not the original plan for Fekitoa as far as chasing the international rugby dream but it become a quest when he arrived in New Zealand as a 17-year-old.

"When I was in Tonga I wanted to make the World Cup team when I was still at school. But when I moved here that's when I started to make a goal for myself and that was to be an All Black, I always believe in working hard and the little things."

He wanted to play for the New Zealand secondary schools and under-20 teams but at that stage didn't qualify to play for his adopted country.

The promising centre was still however on the NZRU radar.

"I wasn't eligible but they still had me in there for the experience to learn off them which got me going."

In 2012 he made his provincial debut for Auckland and last year was selected as part of the Blues wider-training squad. However he wasn't able to find much game time.

The centre was unwanted by the Auckland-based franchise this year and instead was picked up by the Highlanders where he has been a revelation.

In the space of 10 games he has gone from Super Rugby newbie to All Black squad member.

He was one of for midfielders named in the squad and looks to be the understudy at centre to Conrad Smith.

Hooker Liam Coltman is the other uncapped player from the Highlanders to be named in the All Blacks squad yesterday while as expected halfback Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith was included.


Hookers: Keven Mealamu (Blues), Nathan Harris (Chiefs), Dane Coles (Hurricanes) and Liam Coltman (Highlanders).

Props: Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes) and Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks (Crusaders).

Locks: Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Jeremy Thrush * (Hurricanes) and Dominic Bird and Sam Whitelock (Crusaders).

Loose forwards: Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua (Blues), Sam Cane and Liam Messam (Chiefs), Victor Vito (Hurricanes) and Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Luke Whitelock * (Crusaders).

Halfbacks: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) and Aaron Smith (Highlanders).

First five-eighths: Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) and Colin Slade (Crusaders).

Midfielders: Ma'a Nonu (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) and Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders).

Outside backs: Cory Jane and Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders) and Ben Smith (Highlanders).

* Thrush will attend the Wellington camp only; Luke Whitelock will participate in only the Christchurch camp.

The Southland Times