9 Nov 2015

Sport: Former NZ Sevens rep to play for Tonga

12:23 pm on 9 November 2015

Former New Zealand sevens rep Nafi Tuitivake has switched allegiance and will represent Tonga at this weekend's Oceania Sevens Championship in Auckland.

The 26 year old represented the All Blacks Sevens on the 2008 World Series and is a former New Zealand Under 20s player.

He was also a part of the Crusaders Super Rugby team last season.

North Harbour's Nafi Tuitavake tackled by Counties Manukau's Richard Judd during the ITM Cup match between North Harbour and Counties Manukau. QBE Stadium, Auckland, Saturday 12 September 2015. Copyright Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / www.photosport.nz

Nafi Tuitivake [centre] playing for Counties Manakau in this year's ITM Cup provincial competition. Photo: Photosport

With the winner of this weekend's Oceania tournament earning a berth at the Rio Olympics, Tonga coach Andy Katoa says Tuitivake was keen to be involved.

"He's committed to us. Nafi is our first big-time player that's raised his hand and says he wants to be part of our sevens programme. We know he's got an extensive sevens background and his profile and so for me to have somebody of that calibre is huge. We've had a couple guys who are in that calibre or category as Nafi and when it's time to make up their mind they choose to go the other direction away from Tonga sevens - and I understand that - but it's a huge plus for me to have somebody like Nafi Tuitivake who's going to give us the held and not just this one-off but is going to continue to be a plus for us".

Andy Katoa says Tonga have made a number of changes from the squad that finished third at the Pacific Games in July and also have players based in France, Japan and Australia complementing the local players.