It's not been a long standing one, but Te Puke Intermediate School's rugby academy has broken with tradition this year.

For the third time, the academy has this year offered scholarships to two Fijian boys.

For the past two years, those scholarship recipients have been from the Marist Brothers Primary School in Fiji. This year they have found the potential Fijian fliers at two different schools.

Malakai Cama is from Gospel Primary School in Suva while Maloni Bole comes from the Tai District School, around 35km north of the capital.


Both come from families with sporting pedigrees.

Malakai is a cousin of former New Zealand sevens star Tomasi Cama while Maloni's uncle, also called Maloni, represented Fiji in the 100m at the 1988 Summer Olympic and the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

Both players identify as wingers, but say they are willing to play in other positions, and Maloni has already played half back.

In their age group in Fiji, they play 10-a-side on half pitches and say positions are less important than learning the skills of the game.

They say the grounds here are softer than in Fiji.

Malakai's favourite player is Vatemo Ravouvou from the Fijian sevens team while Maloni admires All Black Beauden Barrett.

The two players arrived in April and have struggled a little with the falling temperatures, but are enjoying life at Te Puke Intermediate School.

"A lot of the children are friendly and have welcomed us quite well," says Malakai.


Rugby academy director Darren Harvey says selecting the two recipients for this year's scholarships at trials held in Suva was harder than ever.

"Usually we get 60 or 70, but we had 110 this time around," he says.

"It was a tough selection process, but these boys were consistent over the three days — every day, every activity we did, every game that we played these two were always up the top."

They also showed they had speed to burn.

"We just liked the fact that they were always around the ball — they didn't wait for things to happen, they went in and made things happen.

"Plus they were tough, too. The two things we look at are speed and are they tough around the tackle and ruck and that sort of stuff — which they are."

Darren says it does take time for the Fijian players to settle because of the bigger pitches and team sizes.

"We normally just let them roam really — just to get them used to the bigger numbers on the field and the bigger area.

"But now they've been here nearly eight weeks and they've really settled in — they are what we expected and more.

Both have been selected for the Te Puke Tai Mitchell side that will defend the trophy at the early July tournament. In pre-season games the side had already beaten Tauranga East 72-10 and scored over 100 points against Ōpōtiki.

But Darren believes it will be the AIMS Games sevens where Malakai and Maloni will really shine.

"The Tai Mitchell and Roller Mills are big, but the big thing for our school is that we want a sevens team to be the top team [at AIMS Games] and they bring [sevens talent] in spades.

"They are more natural sevens players than they are 15s,"

But it isn't all about rugby, with Malakai and Maloni heading to Gisborne this weekend for an ultimate frisbee competition and doing well in class.

"Academically these two are probably the best two we've had. They are right up there with our best kids really."

Last year's scholarship recipients, Nacani Batidravu and Waisake Salabiau, were both awarded scholarships to attend Rotorua Boys' High School this year and returned to Te Puke Intermediate for Malakai and Maloni's official powhiri. Joseph Vueti who was one of the first rugby academy scholarship recipients in 2016 looks set to join them at Rotorua Boys' next year.