Latest Laulala emerges from the shadows
Nepo Laulala has become accustomed to chasing older brother Casey's shadow.
A 10-year age-gap meant they never played in the same team, but Nepo recalls the days when he followed Casey along Samoa's beaches during touch rugby games as kids.
The younger sibling, who was this week confirmed as one of the Crusaders' four props for 2013, has become used to playing the role of chaser.
Like Casey, he boarded at South Auckland secondary school Wesley College and when he showed promise for their first XV he was contracted to the Canterbury academy.
Unlike Casey, who became embroiled in a sticky contracting tangle between Counties-Manukau and Canterbury before heading to Christchurch, his transfer was less complicated.
There was no chance of linking with his brother, however. Their paths never intersected.
Centre Casey, now 30, left for Welsh club Cardiff in late 2009 after seven seasons with the Crusaders. The two-test All Black now plays for Irish club Munster, who are guided by former Canterbury head coach Rob Penney.
"While I was growing up he was already in New Zealand which meant we didn't spend much time together," said Nepo, who turns 21 on Tuesday. "I was back in Samoa and he was over here playing rugby.
"I only really saw him during the holidays and at Christmas. We played a bit of touch on the beach but that was about it."
Having played two seasons with Canterbury the tighthead prop has been selected as insurance for All Black Owen Franks, who will also be expected to mentor his understudy.
At 116kg Laulala is no super-heavyweight by Super Rugby standards but he may shed some weight because the Crusaders' newcomers begin their dreaded pre-season fitness regime on December 10.
Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Ryan Crotty and Andy Ellis, who have carried a big workload this season, will not be required to return until January 7 while the All Blacks arrive on January 28.
As a boy, Nepo, along with younger brother Luteru who has recently been contracted to the Canterbury academy, was limited to watching his sibling's exploits on a screen.
"It used to be pretty buzzy, just seeing my older brother - especially to see him on TV."
- © Fairfax NZ News