Te Awamutu has seen a lot more international rugby players, through college and club, than most people would be aware of, with many different countries represented.
Te Awamutu also had four successive Waikato captains in Ian Foster, Deon Muir, Jono Gibbes and Steven Bates.
Both Muir and Gibbes also led the New Zealand Māori side and the Chiefs, while Bates occasionally captained the Chiefs too.
These players have been selected from the professional era of rugby, 1987 Rugby World Cup to the present. Some only attended Te Awamutu College and others were part of Te Awamutu Sports & Recreation Club Inc.
Te Awamutu International XV:
1. Ben May - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1982 Test Caps: 0 International Team: Māori All Blacks 2007-2018
Ben 'Bambam' May has been a New Zealand rugby nomad for more than 15 years starting with Nelson Bays in 2004. To date he has played for five provincial teams and three Super Rugby franchise amassing over 120 Super Rugby caps. He is of Ngāti Maniapoto descent which made him eligible for the Māori All Blacks appearing 15 times for the team. May was still a part of the 2020 Hurricanes squad at the age of 37.
2. Warren Gatland – Te Awamutu College
Born: 1963 Test Caps: 0 (17 matches) International Team: All Blacks 1988-1991, Ireland Head Coach 2002-2005, Wales Head Coach 2007-2019, British and Irish Lions Assistant Coach 2009, British and Irish Lions Head Coach 2013, 2017, 2021 and Barbarians Head Coach 2019
Warren Gatland is hailed as a legendary coach after coaching Wales for 12 years and leading them to three Six Nations Grand Slams, a first for any coach in the competition. Gatland also led the British and Irish Lions to a series win over the Wallabies in the 2013 tour of Australia and a drawn series with the All Blacks in the 2017 tour of New Zealand.
He will lead the Lions again in 2021. He has previously coached Ireland and Waikato, leading Waikato to win the Air New Zealand Cup in 2006. A Waikato man through and through, Gatland appeared 140 times for the Mooloos between 1986 and 1994.
Although playing 17 matches for the All Blacks he never played a single international test match. As of 2020 Gatland is the head coach of the Chiefs who had a solid start to the season with a 4-2 record. His son Bryn plays for North Harbour and the Highlanders.
3. Nathan White – Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1981 Test Caps: 13 International Team: Ireland 2015-2016
Nathan White appeared for Ireland internationally late in his career at age 33 after qualifying through the three-year residency rule. He played 13 test matches before being forced to retire in 2016.
White had previously played for Waikato with 73 games for the club between 2002 and 2011, captaining the side for his final two seasons in New Zealand. The front rower also appeared for the Chiefs 41 times over six seasons. In recent years White has been a forwards coach with the Waikato Squad, Chiefs Under 20 and helped coach the Waikato XV in 2020.
4. Steve Gordon – Te Awamutu College
Born: 1967 Test Caps: 2 (19 matches) International Team: All Blacks 1989-1993
Steve Gordon attended Te Awamutu College along with his older brother Rob. Another Te Awamutu produced Waikato captain, Gordon captained the team for 1995 and 1996.
He played 141 games for Waikato between 1987 and 1997 before playing for Wellington in 1998. He also played in Super Rugby for the Chiefs and Highlanders in 1996 and 1997 respectively. All Black number 896, he played two international tests for the national team and 19 matches in total. Gordon was in the 1991 Rugby World Cup squad but never played a match at the tournament.
5. Jono Gibbes – Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1977 Test Caps: 8 International Team: All Blacks 2004-2005 and Māori All Blacks 2002-2006
Jono Gibbes was born in Henderson, Auckland but attended Te Awamutu College. He was a captain of the Māori All Blacks, playing nine times for them and was also capped by the All Blacks eight times.
In 2005 Gibbes led the Māori to a 19-13 win over the British and Irish Lions. He usually played lock or blindside flanker but was considered too short for an international lock at 1.94m. Many games he would start at flanker and move to lock as another loose forward was brought on.
Gibbes also captained Waikato and the Chiefs for several years appearing 64 times for Waikato and 68 for the Chiefs. After coaching Waikato in 2018, Gibbes is now Director of Rugby at La Rochelle in France.
6. Rob Gordon – Te Awamutu College
Born: 1965 Test Caps: 17 (20 matches) International Team: All Blacks 1990 and Japan 1997-1999
Rob Gordon was a loose forward that played for 17 tests for Japan from 1997-1999 including at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Rob represented Otago from 1986-1987 before returning to Waikato the following season.
In the 1990 championship match against Southland he scored five tries while playing number eight, a record that still stands for a forward in the provincial championship. In 1990 he had been part of the All Blacks tour of France. He played three matches but no international tests.
His brother Steve plus Alan and Gary Whetton also toured with the 1990 All Blacks and they were the first double set of brothers in an All Black tour since the Meads and Clarkes in 1963-1964.
7. Steven Bates - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1980 Test Caps: 1 (2 matches) International Team: All Blacks 2004 and Junior All Blacks 2005-2006
Originally from Auckland, Steven Bates was a flanker and number eight who played one international test and one match against the Barbarians for the All Blacks. After starting his career playing for Auckland from 2000-2001 Bates went on to play for Waikato, captaining them for three seasons leading them to the Air New Zealand Cup victory in 2006, and the Chiefs from 2002-2007 playing 75 games and 57 games respectively.
His 75 games for Waikato were consecutive. He was also capped seven times by the Junior All Blacks. Bates was assistant coach for second placed Auckland at the 2019 Jock Hobbs Memorial National under 19 tournament after previously being involved with the North Harbour team for two years.
• Rugby: The all-time All Blacks XV
• Which is the greatest Super Rugby team of all time?
• Rugby: New All Blacks XV could have huge ramifications for global game
• The all-time All Blacks Fast XV
8. Deon Muir - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1973 Test Caps: 0 International Team: Māori All Blacks 1996, 1998-2002
Deon Muir was a stalwart of Waikato rugby, amassing 101 games for the province between 1995 and 2002. He was captain of the team during their 21 games holding the Ranfurly Shield from 1997-2000.
Muir played 16 times for the Māori All Blacks between 1996 and 2002, captaining the team for tours to Scotland in 1998 and Australia in 2001 as well as 2002. He played four games for the Crusaders in 1996 before moving to the Chiefs for 1997-2002. In 2001 Muir was awarded Super Rugby Player of the Year.
Since retiring he has played a big role in the Te Awamutu rugby community from coaching the Te Awamutu Sports Premiers to being the Te Awamutu community rugby development manager, based at Te Awamutu College. After coaching the Korean Rugby Team for 2016-2017 Muir became the Director of Rugby at Rotorua Boys' High School
9. Matt Dawson MBE - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1972 Test Caps: 84 (7 Lions) International Team: England 1995-2006 and British and Irish Lions 1997, 2001, 2005
Matt Dawson was part of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team as well as touring three times with the British and Irish Lions. When needed, the halfback was also called upon to kick goals.
Dawson played almost 400 first class games with seven for the Lions, 77 for England, 246 for Northampton Saints and 44 for London Wasps before retiring after the 2006 season. In 2006, he won BBC Celebrity MasterChef and published his own cookbook. He is an ambassador for Sodexo to help raise awareness of health and wellbeing issues, has been a part of many TV shows and has a rugby show on BBC Radio 5 live.
10. Nicky Little - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1976 Test Caps: 71 International Team: Fiji 1996-2011
Nicky Little, nephew of former All Black Walter Little, attended Te Awamutu College and also turned out for Te Awamutu Sports for several seasons.
Little followed in the footsteps of his other uncle, Lawrence, playing for Fiji and they played alongside each other at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. By 2016 Little had won more games for a Pacific Island team than any other player with 37. The victories included wins over Italy, Scotland and Wales.
He had a long career across New Zealand and Europe playing for Canterbury, Waikato and North Harbour before playing at several different English and French clubs. With 71 test caps he is the most capped player for any pacific nation and also attended four Rugby World Cups. Little is now Director of Rugby as well as involved in coaching at Canterbury Elite Rugby Academy in England.
11. Sitiveni Sivivatu - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1982 Test Caps: 48 (3 Pacific Islanders) International Team: Pacific Islanders 2004 and All Blacks 2005-2011
Sitiveni Sivivatu was a member of Te Awamutu Sports even though he only played 40 minutes for the club.
Sivivatu was born in Suva, Fiji and moved to New Zealand to attend Wesley College, Pukekohe. In 2001 while still at school he was picked to play for Counties Manukau in the NPC second division. He played for them until 2003 scoring 25 tries in 20 games.
In 2004 he was picked for the Chiefs team and was the only player from a second division team to get a Super Rugby contract. Later in 2004 he transferred to Waikato and scored five tries in one of his first matches for the province as they demolished Auckland 59-11.
He started his international career that year with the Pacific Islanders alongside the late Sione Lauaki. In 2005 they both switched allegiances to New Zealand. Sivivatu scored four tries on début and went on to play 45 tests for the All Blacks from 2005-2011.
He scored 29 tries and appeared against the British and Irish Lions in 2005 as well as at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. After retiring in 2016, Sivivatu took on the role of technical advisor and foreign player liaison with his former club Castres in France.
12. Nathan George - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1991 Test Caps: 0 International Team: New Zealand Under 20 2011
Nathan George was a former captain of Hamilton Boys' High School 1st XV and played mainly first five-eighth for Te Awamutu Sports. In 2011 he was selected to play for New Zealand Under 20 at the IRB Junior World Championships in Italy and was considered to be up there with Beauden Barrett, Gareth Anscombe and Lima Sopoaga who all ended up playing internationally.
He played in two games, starting one of them with the team New Zealand team becoming champions for a fourth successive year. One of the coaches involved with the Under 20s, Jason O'Halloran, also coached the Manawatū Turbos and called George into the squad in 2012, after an injury to first five-eighth Isaac Thompson.
George played two successful seasons for Manawatū in 2012 and 2013 before coming off contract. During 2014 George played for Vigo in Northwest Spain.
13. Robbie Fruean - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1988 Test Caps: 0 International Team: Junior All Blacks 2009 and Barbarians 2011
Robbie Fruean was well known as a strong runner and tackle buster. He played for Te Awamutu Sports on his road to recovery after being sidelined due to abnormal heart rhythms in 2014.
The previous year he had undergone his second open heart surgery. Fruean is originally from Wellington and in 2007 he led the New Zealand team to win the IRB Under 19 Rugby World Championship against South Africa. He was awarded the IRB Under-19 Player of the Year.
Fruean went on to represent the Hurricanes, Crusaders and Chiefs in Super Rugby playing 71 games in total. Provincially he played for Wellington, Canterbury and Hawkes Bay. While playing for Canterbury in 2012 he received the ITM Cup Player of the Year.
In 2009 he played three games for the Junior All Blacks scoring one try and appeared once for the Barbarians two years later. Fruean joined the coaching setup for Sydenham Premier team in Canterbury for 2019.
14. Mikaele Pesamino - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1984 Test Caps: 6 International Team: Samoa 2009-2010 and Samoa Sevens 2007-2010
Mikaele Pesamino came onto the scene at Te Awamutu Sports in 2012 and had instant impact. That season Pesamino also helped Te Awamutu overcome Eastern Bay of Plenty 26-24 to take the Peace Cup as he grabbed a brace of tries, also leaving Te Awamutu with an unbeaten record in the Stan Meads Cup competition at that time.
Pesamino had previously played two matches for Auckland and was a Samoan representative. In his six matches for the national team he grabbed seven tries and while playing for the Samoan Sevens team he was the highest point scorer in the 2009-2010 IRB Sevens World Series.
That year Samoa won their first World Series crown and Pesamino won the 2010 IRB World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year. In his teen years he was also a member of the Samoan Aussie Rules national team. In 2019, at the age of 35, Pesamino was still playing for Onewhero Silver Fern Marquees in Counties Manukau club rugby.
15. Bruce Reihana - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1976 Test Caps: 2 International Team: All Blacks 2000, Māori All Blacks 1998-2002 and New Zealand Sevens 1998, 2002
Bruce Reihana was Te Awamutu Sports club's first All Black when he earned his first cap in 2000, although only playing two games in total.
Previously, he had been called up to the 1999 Rugby World Cup squad as a replacement in the squad for the injured Carlos Spencer but never got to play a match. Reihana played 11 games for the Māori All Blacks between 1998 and 2002 while he was also a dual Commonwealth Games gold medal winner with the New Zealand Sevens team.
He was a jack of all trades being able to play fullback, wing and first five-eighth. A regular member of the Waikato and Chiefs teams, Reihana played 81 games and 58 games respectively.
A memorable game for Reihana, he played at first five-eighth in a shield defence against North Otago in 2000 scoring 35 points consisting of three tries and 10 conversions. He played in 20 Ranfurly Shield matches scoring 19 tries with a total of 120 points. At 26, he moved overseas to play for Northampton Saints playing from 2002-2011 and is considered a legend there after appearing for them 236 times and scoring 1032 points.
From 2011-2014 he then played for French team Bordeaux, appearing 48 times for them. Reihana retired after 2014 and has most recently been a skills coach for Bristol Bears in England. His son Evaan plays first five-eighth for the King Country Rams in the New Zealand Heartland Championship.
Super Substitutes (Honourable mentions):
Bryan Redpath - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1971 Test Caps: 60 International Team: Scotland 1993-2003
Bryan Redpath was a Scottish halfback who played for Te Awamutu Sports before becoming an international player. Redpath played 60 times for Scotland, captaining them several times and also attending three Rugby World Cups.
He played 80 times for Sale Sharks. After retirement Redpath coached Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Yorkshire Carnegie before announcing his coaching retirement in 2017. In 2018 he returned to coach Scotland for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship. Redpath's son Cameron was selected for England in 2018 but didn't play due to injury.
Ian Foster - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1965 Test Caps: 0 International Team: Junior All Blacks 2005-2007 Co-Coach, All Blacks Assistant Coach 2012-2019 and All Blacks Head Coach 2019-Present
All Black coach Ian Foster took over the reins from Steve Hansen after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He had previously been Hansen's assistant since 2012. A former first five-eighth, Foster represented Waikato from 1985-1998 amassing 148 games, a club record. From 1996-1998 he also played 28 times for the Chiefs.
Rhys Duggan - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1972 Test Caps: 1 International Team: New Zealand A 1998-1999, All Blacks 1999 and Māori All Blacks 1996-2002
Rhys Duggan was a well-known name in Waikato as he appeared 111 times for the province from 1994-2004. He had made his provincial début in 1993 for Bay of Plenty. The halfback played his solo All Black test during the 1999 Rugby World Cup against Italy. Duggan represents the Hurricanes in 1996, the Highlanders in 1998 but the Chiefs were his main Super Rugby team from 1997-2005.
In 2019 Duggan played for the New Zealand Barbarian Legends team against the Pacific Legends, a curtain raiser match to All Blacks vs Tonga at FMG Stadium, Hamilton.
Sione Lauaki - Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1981 Test Caps: 20 (3 Pacific Islanders) International Team: Pacific Islanders 2004 and All Blacks 2005-2008
Sione Lauaki was known as a hard hitting loose forward and sported many different hair styles throughout his career. Lauaki started off his career at Auckland playing for them from 2002-2004 before transferring to Waikato in 2005 who he appeared for 22 times.
From 2004-2010 he played 70 games for the Chiefs, three games for the Pacific Islanders and 17 tests for the All Blacks. His brother Epalahame played rugby league for the Warriors, New Zealand and Tonga. On February 12, 2017 at the age of 35, Sione Lauaki passed away thought to be due to kidney problems.
Albert Nikoro – Te Awamutu Sports
Born: 1992 Test Caps: 6 International Team: Samoa 2016-2017
Albert Nikoro was the only Te Awamutu Sports player to be selected for Waikato in 2014. Nikoro was a utility back that had previously played for Tasman, Auckland and the Blues.
He played five games for Waikato that season before moving to Australia to play for the then Super Rugby side, Western Force. His penalty goal for Waikato against Canterbury may be remembered by many, as he landed it from 59m out.
In 2016 he made his international début for Manu Samoa and went on to play six games over 2016-2017. His final test for Samoa saw him go from playing for West Scarborough in Western Australia to a starting position on the wing against the All Blacks. Nikoro also played for Counties Manukau in 2017 and played fullback for GPS in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition during 2018-2019.