Vaea Fifita’s first start for the All Blacks could not have gone better. Not only did he score one of the best loose forward tries you’re likely to see, but he made countless big runs and showed himself as a physical threat in close quarters.
The 25-year-old Hurricances forward lived up to the hype prematch, after coach Steve Hansen had sung his praises, calling him a ‘real physical beast’.
The world was treated to a true display of athletiscm, as Fifita made a large contribution to the 39-22 victory, which sees New Zealand at the top of the Rugby Championship table.
“I feel good. I always back myself when I’ve got the ball in my hand,” said Fifita post match.
“For me, every game I feel calm, I never feel nervous. But when you get out on the field, just play, get the ball in your hand and play.”
Fifita is Tongan born and was first spotted when touring New Zealand with Tonga U18 in 2010. He was reportedly offered a scholarship by Northland coach Richie Harris, who was in charge of the Tamaki College first XV at the time.
The New Zealand Herald note that Fifita was later lured away from Auckland rugby via Murray Mexted’s rugby academy. Mexted said at the time “this boy is incredible”.
There has been a lot of talk about his high knee running style, and that was never more prevalent than almost exactly a year ago, when he literally hurdled a defender when playing for Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Coach Steven Hansen is not getting too excited just yet though, saying he has some work to do.
“He’s a young man… [I] talked about him the other day and said he’s a good athlete. You saw that, a good athlete, tonight. I don’t think he’s the finished product.
“You can’t just go out onto the flank and wait for the ball to come to you, sometimes as a flanker you’ve got to do the hard work too.
“He’s got a long way to go before he does that but it’s a tank that’s got plenty in it and it’s our job to bring that out. It was a starting point and he showed a little of that tonight.
The try he scored was outstanding, but he had so many other quality moments too, so this montage gives a nice idea of why everyone has been talking about him since the match.
credit: rugby montages HD