A tale of two hookers for Coltman and Matu'u

10:24, May 16 2014
Liam Coltman
HEADS DOWN: Liam Coltman readies himself to scrummage for the Highlanders.

Opportunity and timing.

The two words sum up the respective seasons of hookers Liam Coltman and Motu Matu'u ahead of their Super Rugby clash at Westpac Stadium tonight.

That's a good thing for Coltman, a 24-year-old whose consistent toil in Dunedin has seen him catapulted into the All Blacks wider training group.

Regular starts have showcased a player with a hard edge and decent-sized motor, aggressive at rucks and solid at the set piece.

Coltman's personality matches his rugby. He was born in Taranaki, but spent his formative years on the West Coast after his farming father took his wife and three kids south for work.

"I played all my age-grade rugby down there in the Grey Valley, then we moved back up to the Naki when I was about 10 and kept playing up there for Coastal and then Francis Douglas," he said this week.


"We've still got the farm on the West Coast - dad's got a share milker on it - and a bit of dairy. I don't plan on going back there anytime soon. I'm pretty happy here in Dunedin playing some footy."

Coltman comes across as the easy-going type who would fit in wherever he lays his hat.

He loved the Grey Valley where it rained cats and dogs one day, then scorched the earth the next. He's passionate about Taranaki where his parents Tom and Deb still farm and little brother Patrick plays rugby for Spotswood.

Coltman used to dream of being a Hurricane like Francis Douglas alumni Conrad Smith and Beauden Barrett, but now he's fallen in love with Otago.

"The people here are amazing and I've got a couple of mates who take me out [hunting] when I have time off and we roam around the hills for a day or two.

"It's a spot here in Dunedin where you can have the best of both worlds. You can pop up the mountains for a few hours and then be back in the city."

Coltman shifted south in 2008 to do a degree in physical education, but ended up in the Otago rugby academy.

"It just started from there. I was ticking away for a few years in the academy, then I made the Otago side and its blossomed."

Things have fallen into place for a former prop whose graduation to the Highlanders last year coincided with the tail end of All Black Andrew Hore's career and the unexpected arrival in Dunedin of Tony Woodcock, the world's best loosehead prop.

"It's been unreal, especially last year being alongside Horey and Tony Woodcock," Coltman said. "They helped me out heaps, especially Horey with my lineout throwing. And at scrum time Woody would pretty much tell me what I needed to do."

Whatever the two All Blacks said, it sunk in. Coltman is part of the Highlanders' leadership group this year, a regular starter, and now on the cusp of throwing to a lineout against England next month.

Matu'u could be excused a jealous glance at the visitors' dressing rooms tonight ahead of what will be his first start of the season.

Circumstance has conspired against the 27-year-old who has found himself parked behind All Blacks incumbent Dane Coles.

For Matu'u it's a tough gig. A year ago he was on the national selectors' radar, a player with a point of difference on his CV.

Where Coltman has enduring workrate, Matu'u has explosive power. He's the type of player who can change the dimension of a match with one tackle.

Matu'u admits it has been tough living on a diet of cameos, two matches for the Hurricanes development side and an appearance for his club side Oriental Rongotai. His last start was against the Stormers in Palmerston North last year when he broke his forearm.

But Matu'u, who has another year to run on his Hurricanes contract, is far from down about his situation and is unbowed in his determination to push for higher honours.

"There is no use being negative about it ... Colesy has been ripping up every weekend. For me I just have to put my case forward at training, keep him honest and when I come off the bench try to do what I can.

"Every kid has that dream to play for the ABs and obviously I have that same goal. A dream is a dream and I'll stick at it. I'm not going to have regrets later.

"Coming up against Liam who has been playing well in Super Rugby this year will be a good gauge of where I'm at."