Rugby: Bay passion impresses import

By Shane Hurndell

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Boris Bouhraoua PHOTO/Glenn Taylor
Boris Bouhraoua PHOTO/Glenn Taylor

Former France Sevens representative Boris Bouhraoua's English is far from hot.

But it's easy to pick up he's passionate about rugby and impressed with the spirit generated on the Hawke's Bay club rugby scene.

"It's all about the passion here, not about the pay cheque," Bouhraoua, who will make his debut for Hawke's Bay Insurances Ltd Napier Old Boys Marist today, said with a little assistance from his host Kevin Dooney last night.

The oldest of three brothers, all of whom have played for the France Sevens side, Bouhraoua, 30, has been a professional rugby player since he left school.

"Back home every player is worried about No1 particularly towards the end of the season when you are playing for a contract for the following season. Players become very individual and the spirit is different to what it is here," Bouhraoua explained.

However, Bouhraoua, who is on his first visit to New Zealand, has not left his winning attitude at home.

"I want to win all my matches I play here."

That aim will be tested today when NOBM take on IMS Payroll Hastings Rugby and Sports in the feature match of the Hastings side's Elwood Park club day. The winning side will finish second in the Tui Nash Cup.

A former France Universities under-21 and under-18 representative, Bouhraoua decided to have a stint with NOBM after his best friend, 2013 Magpies first five-eighth Regis Lespinas, returned home raving about the Bay and New Zealand.

"I'm here for a year at least. Like Regis, I want to see the South Island and I definitely want to see the Wellington Sevens because my brother Terry will be playing for France. Regis was definitely right about NOBM. Everyone has been so welcoming and the hospitality and spirit is first class. All the players are friends and the roast dinners we have after Thursday night trainings are pretty special," Bouhraoua said.

He got the perfect introduction to New Zealand rugby a fortnight ago with a bus trip to Porangahau with the NOBM development side. He played the second half of the match, which ended in a 20-all draw, and said the after-match function was something he will remember for the rest of his career.

When he was in the France sevens side during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Bouhraoua played in five tournaments and never had a win against New Zealand. He remembers marking the likes of former Magpie Amasio Valence and Orene Ai'i. However, he was quick to say he played a key role for a French age group side in a win against a New Zealand team which included future All Blacks Luke McAlister and Joe Rokocoko.

As a youngster, he regarded winger Jeff Wilson as his favourite All Black. In recent times, first five-eighth Dan Carter has been his All Black hero.

For the past four years, Bouhraoua has played for Algeria, a side he qualifies for through his grandfather.

"There is no money involved but it's good for development. We play in the African Championship and most of the players in the side play their club rugby in France."

Win or lose against bottom-of-the-table Tamatea at Bill Mathewson Park today, Carters Frame and Truss Taradale will win the Nash Cup. Other games will see Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports host Progressive Meats Havelock North at Park Island, Northfuels Central host Tech Group of Companies Napier Technical at Central Park, and MAC host Clive at Flaxmere Park.

Today's Pratt Trophy Town/Country grade final between Hastings Rugby and Sports and Otane will also be played at Elwood Park as part of the Hastings club's club day. Otane qualified for the final by ending the unbeaten run of the Taradale reserve side last weekend, which denied Taradale the chance of completing a clean sweep of first round afternoon grade male competitions.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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