The Crusaders' newest Māori signing is urging more Kura Kaupapa Māori students into professional rugby.
This week, 18-year old Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta signed a two-year deal with the Super Rugby franchise.
He says that students from total immersion schools have a lot to offer the top levels of the game.
Cirikidaveta says, “Big doors get opened up here. There's some big opportunities up here.”
That's right! He's the first person from the East Coast settlement of Te Araroa to sign with Super Rugby franchise, the Crusaders. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, former Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti student says his Māori upbringing got him where he is today.
“I was pretty scared moving away from Te Araroa to Auckland and leaving my mum all the way down there, but it was a good choice though.”
St Kentigerns College Director of Rugby, Tai Lavea says that the Māori upbringing reaps numerous benefits on the rugby field.
“When you see an athlete like that, with the drive and obviously him being half Māori half Fijian, that's a very good specimen.”
Māori speaking players at Super Rugby level are somewhat few and far between. From the likes of Nehe Milner Skudder, Otere Black and more recently Taranaki centre, Sean Wainui.
The latest name to that list is intent on carving a further Māori pathway.
Lavea says, “I think every boy that has come through, and especially in our rugby programme, they feel safe in our environment and ultimately that's led to success on the field.”
Although this Māori rising star has been living away from his tribal homelands for two years now, he remains steadfast in his East Coast upbringing.
“If it's sunny, go catch a couple of the boys, go down to the river, have a good time, get some fish and chips.”
And by the sounds of things, you can take the boy out of the Coast, but you can't take the Coast out of the boy.