Big-game for little-known flanker Koloamatangi

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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Tevita Koloamatangi might not be a familiar name to Chiefs fans, but it is one they will hear a lot more of tonight.

The 25-year-old Nelson loose forward was recruited by the Chiefs for their wider training group after a standout season for Tasman in the national provincial championship.

Now he is needed in the front line after injuries to All Black No 7s Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer.

Koloamatangi's lack of experience at Super Rugby level and a couple of pre-season injuries kept him under the radar early on, and a start in the opening game of the season against the Crusaders was far from his mind.

Suddenly, both Cane and Latimer are sidelined by injury and Koloamatangi, 25, is getting ready to take on the seven-time champions and All Black captain Richie McCaw.

"I'm really rapt," Koloamatangi said. "It's a great opportunity to show my talent up against the best, supposedly, team in Super Rugby and I just need to take it with two hands and go with it."

Koloamatangi has played for Tasman for the past four seasons and has lived in Nelson since he was 9, having been born - "sadly" he says - in Auckland. Originally, he was a specialist openside flanker but, with Maori All Black Shane Christie becoming the Tasman No 7, he found himself being used increasingly at both No 6 and No 8.

"Christie is a really top-class player down there and I had to change my position to accommodate him, really. Now that I've played mostly six and eight the past few years, they are all sort of similar to me even though they are all quite different."

Koloamatangi said a fantastic culture in the Chiefs meant anyone from anywhere could fit in.

"The Chiefs develop you to really showcase your talent and not leave anything out there - don't be scared to show your stuff out there. They really coach that well here and let players express themselves."

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