Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has plumped for youth to fill the side's troublesome centre spot with the announcement yesterday he had signed 18-year-old Sean Wainui.
The former Takapuna Grammar first XV captain has been in impressive form this season, not only for his New Plymouth Old Boys club but for the Chiefs development side.
At 1.92cm and 100kg, Wainui cuts an impressive figure for a midfield back, while he has also shown plenty of maturity in his play.
His decision to move to Taranaki, when he had offers from several other national provincial championship unions, would seem to have proved the right one - for both sides.
"I've found it awesome because everyone around here has been so supportive," he said yesterday.
"It's been quite easy adjusting.
"Everyone said it would be quite hard but I haven't found that to be the case at all."
The speed at which a contract had eventuated surprised him, as did the amount of time he got with the Chiefs development side.
He thought it would have taken two to three years before he was given the opportunity to play NPC rugby but is in no way over-awed by the opportunity.
"I just thought if I trained as hard as I could in the development programme then you never know where things can go and so it's proved," Wainui said.
Cooper said Wainui's form was too good to ignore, despite the fact he was straight out of school.
"He really turned it on for the Chiefs development team," Cooper said. "In one particular game, he really carved up against the Hurricanes.
"It is [a contract] probably earlier than he thought but it gives us a chance to grow him and develop him. We thought we might as well do that now because as soon as he gets on a stage, he's going to be wanted."
Cooper felt Wainui belied his age because of his physical size and weight.
He was confident if he was given game time in the NPC - something that looks odds-on given Taranaki's dearth of talent available for the No 13 jersey - he would handle it.
The veteran coach could remember only one instance when he had signed an 18-year-old to a professional contract and that was former All Blacks wing Zac Guildford at the Hurricanes.
- Taranaki Daily News
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