Check out the photo of Maori All Blacks halfback Jonathan Ruru and prop Pouri Rakete-Stones jnr before the weekend's 27-10 loss to Fiji in Suva.

"It was a mistake. We were having a chat before heading out for the national anthems and when we assembled there we were together two Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports boys ... great for the club back home," Magpie Rakete-Stones recalled.

While it was coincidental, players often link arms with players closest to them, either relatives or provincial teammates, during pre-match formalities while representing national teams no matter what the code. Like Ruru, 26, Rakete-Stones, 22, is a Napier Boys' High School old boy and both represented the Pirate club through all the junior grades.

Former Magpie Ruru had one season of premier club rugby with Taradale Rugby and Sports in 2012 when his brother, Rebels halfback Michael, had the monopoly on the No 9 jersey at the whanau's Pirate club. Although former All Black Sevens player Ruru who has been a Maori All Black since 2017 played for Otago in 2016 and '17 and Auckland and the Blues since last year he still attempts to play for the Pirate club as often as possible and turned out for the club when they won their second consecutive Hawke's Bay Sevens title in 2017.


"It's been good having Jono there as well as Ash. Having Ash's experience has been a big help," first-year Maori All Black Rakete-Stones said referring to fellow Magpie and long-serving Maori All Black captain Ash Dixon.

"I'm loving the Maori All Black team environment as well as learning the culture and everything which goes with it ... the tikanga, the whakatauki. There's a lot of work which goes on off the field, just as much as on it and it's all aimed at connecting with your Maori heritage," Rakete-Stones explained.

Both Ruru and Rakete-Stones weren't in the playing 23 used in the weekend's loss in Suva. But this doesn't mean they are guaranteed berths in the playing 23, which will be announced tomorrow, for Saturday night's return match in Rotorua.

"We just have to keep training hard and take whatever opportunities come our way," Rakete-Stones said.

He was a late replacement in the squad for fellow Magpie Ben May who collected a calf injury while in camp with the squad. Ruru is the third-string halfback behind Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi of the Chiefs and Bryn Hall of the Crusaders.

A 2017 world champion New Zealand under-20 player, Rakete-Stones told his whanau last week he will dedicate any minutes he gets with the Maori team, if selected, to his late grandmother Heeni Rakete who died last month.

"I'm really enjoying training with all the Super boys in this squad. Everyone is ready to redeem themselves and I know the boys will front up pretty hard on Saturday night," Rakete-Stones said.

"If I get to take the field it would mean a lot ... it would be a dream come true."


He agreed the Fijians were outstanding in Suva.

"They played the way they like to play and had 30 offloads. We're going to have to shut that down this weekend."

Dixon and newly contracted Magpies lock Isaia Walker-Leawere were both in the starting XV on Saturday night. Both are likely to be in Saturday night's 23.

After the weekend's loss Dixon promised the team's defensive lapses would be addressed. Fiji's promising fullback Alifereti Veitokani, talented first five-eighth Ben Volavola, classy centre Waisea Nayacalevu and powerful No 8 Vili Mata were given too much freedom in Suva.

Tickets for Saturday night's match are still available.