Sport: Christchurch roofer to start against All Blacks on test debut

11:03 am on 5 September 2019

Hooker Siua Maile will start for Tonga against the All Blacks this weekend on his test debut, capping a meteoric rise for the Christchurch-based roofer, who is yet to play a first class match.

The 22 year old Maile was a shock inclusion when Tonga's Rugby World Cup squad was announced earlier this week and gets his chance against the world champions after injuries to Paula Ngauamo (calf) and Sosefo Sakalia (ribs), with Sione Anga'aelangi called into the team to provide cover off the bench.

Siua Maile runs the ball up for his Shirley club in Christchurch

Siua Maile runs the ball up for his Shirley club in Christchurch Photo: Shirley RFC / Rachel Briggs Photography

'Ikale Tahi coach Toutai Kefu admitted he still did not know much about the young man who was only called into the squad a few weeks ago.

"It's exciting to be giving Siua an opportunity and really important for him to build his minutes and get that test experience before we head to Japan," he said.

"He was our third-choice hooker that we were going to take to the World Cup and we didn't envisage him taking any part in the World Cup, so we brought him along basically for experience and because we identified that he's got a massive potential and maybe a player of the future.

"Three weeks ago he was nailing tin roofs to houses so this is a great opportunity for him. I think he's still a bit shell-shocked to tell you the truth but what a wonderful


Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu.

Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu. Photo: Supplied/Tonga Rugby Union

Maile grew up in Tonga but moved to New Zealand in 2014 to take up a rugby scholarship at Timaru Boys High School, where he played in the first fifteen for two years.

The teacher in charge of rugby, Edward Patterson, said they are rapt for their former student.

"He was always a stocky build but we thought he was going to get a bit bigger. We moved him to flanker and there he sort of just developed and kicked on really quickly," he said.

"He became actually one of the best flankers in that UC (First XV) Competition. He always looked like he could move in there but maybe we were pretty hesitant to do that and I don't think it's really happened until this year."

Edward Patterson said Timaru Boys has never had a Pacific Islands rugby international and they now another reason to tune in on Saturday night.

"We've had a large amount of All Blacks over the years - Issac Ross was the last one in 2009 - so it's taken ten years but we're rapt about this really. We weren't expecting it at all, we wish him the best and we just can't believe he's probably marking Dane Coles and Codie Taylor next week."

His coach at Shirley Rugby Club, Deane Lutton, said Maile was only converted from a loose forward a few seasons ago following a request from the Canterbury Rugby Union.

"Back in Timaru Boys (High School) he was actually a midfield back and then he sort of could play flanker," he said. "So he played flanker for us for a couple of years and then he went back to centre and over the last sort of two or three years we've converted him to a hooker so he's a unique sort of individual - very quick and got some good skills."

"I just think his running ability - just his speed and his evasion skills - is probably his best (asset) and he's quite good at jackling as well, turning over the ball from his loose forward sort of ability with that, so he's a pretty good all-round player."

Unlike the All Blacks players he will come up against on Saturday, Maile has to juggle his rugby commitments with work.

"He works full-time as a roofer so a lot of the time he'll come straight from work and he might be a bit tired but he sort of flicks the switch and gets into it and has no excuse," said Lutton. "He's probably mentally hard from doing that and it would probably transfer over to a professional career."

"He's a very modest and humble sort of a chap. He's got a young family: they've just had a baby sort of three or four weeks ago (and) a new wife sort of six months ago so for a young man things have really taken off this year for him."

Hooker Siua Maile (2R) with family after a game for Shirley Vikings.

Hooker Siua Maile (2R) with family after a game for Shirley Vikings. Photo: Supplied/Shirley Rugby Club

The Shirley Rugby Club have put their full support behind the Tongan hooker, who plays alongside his brother Ngase for the club's premier side.

A quiz night will be held at the clubrooms next week to raise funds for the front-rower, who is taking time off work

"We've got a couple of quiz nights coming up and a few silent auctions and raffles etc. People are just putting their hand in the pocket to be honest as well, donating money just to make sure he's got enough."

Meanwhile Tonga have also recalled some experienced heads to take on the All Blacks in Hamilton with flanker Sione Kalamafoni, first five Kurt Morath and winger Cooper Vuna back in the starting side.

"These last few weeks have been good preparation with three very physical hard games, which is the intensity we will need to have in our Pool C matches at the World Cup," said Kefu.

"For us it now about building on our preparation under match conditions and there is no greater challenge in World Rugby than taking on the All Blacks in New Zealand. It's a David and Goliath battle but we're relishing that challenge."

Tonga team vs New Zealand:

1. Siegfried 'Fisiihoi, 2. Siua Maile*, 3. Siua 'Halanukonuka, 4. Sam Lousi, 5. Leva Fifita, 6. Sione Kalamafoni, 7. Fotu 'Lokotui, 8. Maama 'Vaipulu, 9. Sonatane Takulua,

10. Kurt Morath, 11. Viliami Lolohea, 12. Siale Piutau, 13. Malietoa Hingano, 14. Cooper Vuna, 15. David Halaifonua.

Reserves 16. Sione Anga'aelangi, 17. Vunipola Fifita, 18. Ma'afu Fia, 19. Dan Faleafa, 20. Zane 'Kapeli, 21. Leon 'Fukofuka, 22. James 'Faiva, 23. Atieli Pakalani.