Dream a step closer for Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta
Six years ago he was just a kid playing rugby on the East Coast — now, after last weekend, his dream to play Super Rugby is one step closer.
Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta was awarded MVP for his performance for the Tasman Mako in their 41-24 win over Counties Manukau in the opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup.
Playing in the No.5 jersey (lock) for the Mako, he was the only starter in the team not to have Super Rugby experience.
Given the depth of the Mako team this year, it came as a surprise to Cirikidaveta when he was told he was the MVP.
“I wasn't expecting it, they (the management) told me to come have a chat, and I wasn't looking forward to it . . . I thought I was in trouble,” he laughed.
He said he doesn't come home that much, but he still talks to his mum on the phone every week and when he called on Sunday after the game to give her the news, she started crying.
Cirikidaveta grew up in Te Araroa, a small community on the Coast of 140 families and “only one Four Square, a fish and chip shop and one area school”.
He was playing rugby up there when former All Black Rico Gear spotted his skill and promptly spread the word of an emerging talent from up the Coast.
He had played representative age-grade rugby for Ngati Porou - East Coast before he was scouted by Saint Kentigern College in Auckland in 2012.
Two years later, at 16 years old, he was off to the big smoke on a full scholarship to play No.8 for their first 15 and board at the school.
He had been approached by Saint Kentigern when he was 14 during a Hurricanes regional tournament in Ruatoria, but his mum wasn't ready to let him go.
During his time at St Kentigern, the Crusaders academy flew to Auckland to meet face-to-face and recruit him.
He had the option through them to play and develop his game in either Nelson or Christchurch — choosing Nelson because he preferred the smaller city.
He was selected for the New Zealand Maori U18 Development team in 2016 before making his Mako debut in 2017. In 2019 he came off the bench in the Mako's Mitre 10 Cup Premiership victory.
“This year, I've been working really hard to make sure I can get some opportunities,” he said.
He's in good hands, with a recently-named All Black locking partner in Quinten Strange and a team littered with talent.
He thanked his mum who raised him single-handedly, his nan, the whanau back at home (Te Araroa) and the coaches who helped him through the grades for where he finds himself now.
Despite the recognition, the work doesn't stop there for Cirikidaveta. He still has a full season of rugby ahead of him and aspirations for bigger things.
“I definitely want to play Super Rugby but at the end of the day you have to work hard to get there.”