Coming in off the long run: Treasury of trophies for Tameifuna
Few New Zealand rugby players end their careers with a resume as impressive as Benjamin Vainga Charles Tameifuna's is at the beginning of his.
Barely a foot out the door of Hastings Boys High School, Ben was devastating defences and blocking TV screens on the international stage helping the Baby Blacks notch up a fourth consecutive world title. Tameifuna would then go on to be a part of the ITM championship-winning Magpies, earning them a place back in the premier division.
At 138 kilograms, Ben Tameifuna was always going to catch the rugby public's eye. However, it was his work-rate, skill and scrummaging technique that earned him a place at the Chiefs 2012 Super Rugby franchise. Not named in the initial run on squad, Ben was thrust into the limelight as injuries to Toby Smith and Ben Afeaki forced coach Dave Rennie, also in his rookie season, to select Tameifuna alongside his Magpies teammates Hika Elliot and Sona Taumalolo, also Ben's uncle. The trio thrived and became the anchor of the Chiefs unit, setting the platform for Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams to dazzle.
The Chiefs' successful Super Rugby campaign would see Ben, not yet 21, acquire his third major rugby title in just over a year of professional rugby - an impressive feat for a man who nine years prior was playing halfback for a rugby league club in Auckland.
As humble as he is intimidating, Ben minimises his colossal achievements, happy to divert the recognition to his team-mates and coaches. "I'm learning so much from the experienced players round me, and the coaches provide a great team environment. It's just awesome to be a part of it."
The accolades would not stop there, nor would the Tameifuna triumph train be halted. The ascent would continue with the world champion All Blacks beginning a new era, and Tameifuna's name becoming synonymous with All Black propping options. Hansen alluded to Ben's running game and scrummaging ability as the attributes that aided their decision.
Tameifuna credits his scrum technique to the early days of 1st XV where he was scouted to the Magpies front row factory at McLean Park in the early hours before school. At just 16 Ben held his own against then first-class players Danny Logan, Clint Newland and his Uncle Sona. Critiquing his technique at that tender age was a crucial aspect of his rapid rise - not to mention the many unfortunate defenders he has bulldozed on his way.
His versatility reiterates the asset he is in the eyes of the All Black management. "He has been impressive with the Chiefs this year and he gives us cover at hooker, which is a huge bonus."
Ben, unlike most props, can also play hooker and is being earmarked as a potential long-term replacement for veteran Keven Mealamu. Combine this with a strenuous work ethic, unrelenting physicality and humility the public yearns for, expect the uncapped Tameifuna to be lifting more trophies and stretching out plenty of All Black jerseys in years to come.
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