Hawke's Bay lock-loosie Tiaki Fabish is finding it tough juggling his rugby commitments with his studies but he's relishing the challenge.
"Not many people get that opportunity ... it's an awesome honour to be named captain of a national team," Fabish said as he reflected on his New Zealand Māori under-18 boys rugby team's 46-13 victory against their Fijian counterparts in Rotorua on Sunday.
The former Napier Boys' High School first XV lock who is studying psychology, criminology and Māori at Victoria University in Wellington had one day to recover after playing for Hawke's Bay at the national under-19 tournament in Taupo before linking up with the Māori squad. He was one of six Bay players in Sunday's team.
Fabish started at blindside flanker and also played lock. The Napier Boys' High School pair of Jayden Walker and Jake Ward started at loosehead prop and tighthead prop respectively, the Hastings Boys' High School pair of Jordan Thompson-Dunn and Mercedes Hodge started at first five-eighth and fullback respectively and Taradale Rugby and Sports loosie Hunter Nuku provided quality impact when he took the field at No 8.
Hodge and Thompson-Dunn both scored tries in the victory. The Māori side led 12-8 at halftime.
"We weren't sure what to expect from them. They were so unorthodox. But at half-time we worked out they were weak out on the edges so we could exploit that. We also had to improve our line speed to shut down their strengths and when we made those adjustments everything worked well in the second half," Fabish explained.
Ward collected a head knock 10 minutes into the match and was ruled out of the remainder of the side's campaign with concussion. The Māori team will be involved in a game of three periods which will also involve the New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Schools Barbarians in Palmerston North on Thursday.
"We know we will have to step up another level when we take on those teams. Their standards will be higher," Fabish, who will again have the captaincy duties, said.
A former Hawke's Bay under-16 development, under-13 and Ross Shield rep, Fabish, 18, was one of the unsung heroes in the NBHS first XV which finished second at last year's National Top Four tournament in Palmerston North. This year he was a member of the Old Boys University colts team which won their Wellington club competition.
Next year he hopes to be in the mix for the Old Boys University premier club side. He will also be eligible again for the Hawke's Bay under-19 team which will aim to improve upon this month's 10th placing at next year's national tournament in Taupo.