Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Super rugby: Te Aihe Toma in Highlanders team to take on Chiefs

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PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Te Aihe Toma of Pulse Energy Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between Southern Kings and Highlanders at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on
PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Te Aihe Toma of Pulse Energy Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between Southern Kings and Highlanders at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on

A month ago Te Aihe Toma was focused on helping his Te Puna team make the playoffs in the Baywide club competition.

Now the Bay of Plenty Steamers halfback is a key part of the Highlanders squad, working in tandem with the world's best halfback in All Black Aaron Smith.

For the 23-year-old Toma it has been a surreal experience and unforgettable journey.

He got the call-up from Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown to fill a halfback crisis with Smith away on All Blacks duty and Fumiaki Tanaka injured playing for Japan.

Toma started against the Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth and came off the bench against the Jaguares in Buenos Aries last weekend.

Tonight in Dunedin he is set to get game time again off the bench against the Chiefs in a must win match for both sides ahead of next week's quarter finals.

Toma says he has loved every minute of his time stepping up to Super Rugby.

"It has been pretty amazing.

"A highlight has been the travel to South Africa and the likes of Johannesburg, Port of Elizabeth, then we travelled to Brazil for a stopover before Argentina and Buenos Aries which was pretty cool.

"Another highlight for me would probably be on the second week with meeting and greeting the All Blacks that joined us for that game (in Argentina).

"Meeting one of my idols Aaron Smith was pretty cool. He has been awesome. He has been helping me out wherever I need it and stuff like that."

Toma has played three seasons of provincial rugby with Bay of Plenty and says the pace of the game at Super Rugby is the major difference.

"The game is so fast because the Highlanders do play a high tempo game and they look to play most of the game with speed.

"That is one of the biggest changes I have felt, having to get to rucks quicker and pretty much the whole tempo of the game is a lot quicker.

"Also there is more ownership on ourselves in order to know your role in the team and as a player and within the game system as well."

Toma is a regular for the Chiefs Development team and has trained often with the players he will face tonight.

"I am looking forward to it. It is going to be good to go against some of the old fullahs from back up at home.

"It will be interesting but I am just there to play my game and play my part in the team."
Toma does have some support from the Bay in Dunedin tonight.

"My partner, my mum, my step dad and brother have come down here to catch up with me and watch the game.

"Their hearts are with the Chiefs but now I am with the Highlanders they are supporting the Highlanders."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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