Rugby: Fatherly advice for Vaega

By Daniel Richardson

Cardiff Vaega says his father's advice was to stay humble despite the honour of a Super rugby contract.  Photo / Getty Images
Cardiff Vaega says his father's advice was to stay humble despite the honour of a Super rugby contract. Photo / Getty Images

Cardiff Vaega can call himself a Super rugby player now but after signing his Hurricanes contract he received some sound advice from someone who has been there before.

The 22-year-old midfielder was named last week as the final full-time member of the Hurricanes' roster for next season and he is also set to join an exclusive club as a second-generation Super rugby player.

Vaega's father, To'o, one of Samoa's most-capped internationals with 61 appearances between 1986 and 2001, played for the Highlanders in 1996 and 1997 and gained a lone cap for the Blues in 2000.

"He said 'just don't ever change, it doesn't matter even though you've picked up a Super rugby contract, it doesn't mean that you're the total package'," Vaega said of the advice his dad gave him.

"So nothing's changed, I'm still the same and I'll keep learning and moving onwards and upwards. I just want to take as much out of it as I can and always remain humble."

It was due to his father's exploits at the 1991 World Cup that led to Cardiff's unique first name. To'o scored a famous try for Samoa as they beat Wales 16-13 at Cardiff Arms Park on their way to a spot in the quarter-finals. But the whole father-son comparison thing can get a bit old and Cardiff said he was focused on carving out his own niche on the field.

"He doesn't like people comparing me to him or him to me," Vaega said of his father. "So he's just happy with where I'm at and as long as I'm happy, he's happy, and he just wants me to do the best I can for myself and for the family."

The problem is, though, when you play in the midfield like your father did and you also represent the same province - To'o played for Southland in the mid-1990s and Cardiff has played for the Stags since 2011 - the comparisons will flow.

Vaega made the switch from the side of the scrum to the midfield in his final two years at Kelston Boys' High School before moving to Invercargill at the start of 2011.

The former flanker will now learn from one of the best centres in the game next year in the form of Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith. The 1.80m and 100kg centre will join a competitive midfield group at the Hurricanes, with Hadleigh Parkes and Tim Bateman also in the picture alongside Smith.

Vaega said he knew earlier in the season the Hurricanes were interested in him but he thought a couple of middling performances during the ITM Cup may have dented his chances.

He was told to work on his body positioning at the breakdown, his tackling technique and his defensive reads.

Vaega will relocate to Wellington next month but his immediate focus will be Southland's ITM Cup Championship semifinal against Tasman in Blenheim on Saturday.

- APNZ

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