The New Zealand Rugby Union will hold a misconduct hearing for Magpie and Super Rugby-winning Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna over his latest driving misdemeanours.
Tameifuna, 21, pleaded guilty in the Hastings District Court yesterday to two charges of driving while disqualified. He was sentenced to 50 hours' community work and was disqualified from driving for nine months.
The union confirmed yesterday they had set up "misconduct proceedings'' and would look to meet Tameifuna over the next few weeks.
Tameifuna was supported in court by his mother and Chiefs assistant coach Tom Coventry, who had also penned a letter to Judge Richard Watson, outlining an "eight-point plan'' to help Tameifuna keep his career on track. Tameifuna appeared in the dock sporting a large bandage across his nose, believed to be from an operation to help with his sleeping.
He was pulled over by police on September 13 while driving to training, and on October 25 on his way to deregister his vehicle. He had been disqualified twice this year, at the Hamilton District Court in February and at the Hastings District Court in May, originally over lost demerit points.
Coventry, who has known Tameifuna since he was a fifth former at Hastings Boys' High School, said the plan was about "putting good structures in and around Ben''.
Specifics of Tameifuna's plan included placing him in a stable flat, close to training, access to a full-time trainer, medical staff, and a personal-development manager to help him with his community work. He would also receive peer mentoring from senior players.
"All the aspects of a professional rugby environment are here for him, for Ben to use, for as long as he's involved with the Chiefs franchise,'' Coventry said. "We've appreciated [that] Ben has made some significant strides with us, with the Chiefs, but are disappointed obviously with the driving offences.
"He's got plenty of potential as a rugby player, we've just got to make sure he tidies up his activity off the field. He's obviously got to be better at making decisions for himself.''
Tameifuna had a standout season with the Chiefs and was a key component of their Super Rugby-winning squad.
He was selected in June to be part of the All Blacks' squad for the three-test series against Ireland. And while he never featured on the field, the future looked bright for the former New Zealand Under-20 star. He started the Magpies' ITM Cup campaign but fell out of favour with selectors towards the end of the season. The union publicly stated he was overweight and lacking form.
In court, defence lawyer Roger Philip said a sentence more severe than community work "would be devastating'' for Tameifuna and asked that he be given the chance to prove what he was capable of.
Judge Watson said Tameifuna could use his standing as a rugby player to help others during his community work.
"I'm particularly impressed by the letter that has been provided by Mr Coventry, your coach at the Chiefs rugby club, because he has known you for some time.
"He has also set out a very clear plan. He wants you back, back within the [Chiefs] environment, and they will do everything they can to assist you.''