Boric to labour at heart of NZ scrum

Like many Croatians starting a new life in New Zealand, Anthony Boric's forebears sought their fortunes as gum diggers in the Far North.

Known for their work ethic, the Croatians dug for the prized kauri gum, saving their money before drifting south to West Auckland to buy plots of land and stake out their orchards and vineyards to set up family businesses.

It is a familiar story, one that All Blacks lock Boric, whose grandparents hailed from a small village in the Dalmatia region on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, quickly learned plenty about.

His grandfather, Frank, bought an orchard in Henderson, before selling up and moving to the wine country of Kumeu and Boric knows about having to graft in the orchards, having done his share of fruit picking on the family spread.

"Quite a few of them (Croatians) came out. I'm not sure if a lot of them didn't have much of an idea but it worked pretty well for him, he worked pretty hard," Boric said of his grandfather who died in 1995.

"My dad as well is still working hard on the orchard. He doesn't want to put his feet up yet."

Although he has been back to Croatia just once, Boric has picked up a smattering of the language learned from parents Sonja and Milenko and no doubt some of the attitude that rewards do not come without a price has rubbed off.

"I've picked a lot of apples, picked a lot of fruit. I spent a lot of time out there. I haven't done much lately though."

Before rugby began eating into his time, Boric studied civil engineering and has "five or six" papers remaining before he nails his degree.

Although he is still doing his fourth-year papers, the former Rosmini College student is now in his sixth year of study because professional rugby duties have taken up his time.

"Hopefully I'll plug away at that. Apparently Russell Coutts, who did the same course I did, took eight years. He plugged away at it slowly. I might take a bit longer, we'll see what happens."

It was Boric's high work rate that caught the All Blacks coaches' attention during the Super 14, the 24-year-old lock being recruited to fill the holes left by Chris Jack and Keith Robinson as back-up to Ali Williams and Brad Thorn.

Tomorrow night he makes his first run-on start for the All Blacks, having been selected to replace the suspended Thorn against the experienced Springboks second row pairing of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha at Carisbrook.

If anything, it will be a novel experience for Boric, who shares a Croatian heritage with former North Harbour and All Blacks players Frano Botica and Kevin Borovich.

While he has played against Matfield and Botha since his Super 14 debut for the Blues two years ago, he has not started a match against them.

Despite being suspended, Thorn has remained with the All Blacks this week in Dunedin and is rooming with Boric to help calm his nerves.

"He's given me a few tips on how to get through them. It's been pretty interesting. He has a lot of experience and a lot to offer. He's been really good so far.

"Early in the week he said `just try and build it up slowly' and peak come Saturday. That's the goal, I guess, to not use up too much nervous energy."


The Press