Ben Tameifuna: Young 138kg Leviathan Prop for the Chiefs All Blacks and Hawkes Bay Rugby Teams
As the 2012 Super Rugby tournament kicked off, critics lamented the lack of quality, depth and experience in the Chiefs tight five. When they lost their two starting props, Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith, to long term injury in the opening loss to the Highlanders, the feeling of inevitability was further exacerbated. No one, not even the Chiefs coaches or the young man himself would have predicted their saviour would have come in the ample form of Ben Tameifuna, a 138kg 20 year old out of Hawkes Bay. Unlike many young props who steamroll their way into the mass consciousness early in their career, it isn’t his barnstorming runs but his core work at the scrum that have earmarked for higher honours. Ben Tameifuna has gone on to start the majority of games that season, and contributed to turning a scrum predicted to be a liability into one of the best in the competition. On the back of their unheralded forward pack, the Chiefs went on to win their maiden Super Rugby title.
On the 14th of May, 2012 Ben Tameifuna was named as part of 35-man All Black training squad for the June series against the Ireland rugby team. That 35 man squad will be trimmed to 30. Regardless of whether Tameifuna makes the cut, his selection signals that at only 20 he is already being earmarked for higher honours. It is believed that his experience playing at hooker as a youth has given the selectors the freedom to only select two specialist hookers. This bodes well for his elevation coming sooner rather than later, even if it is just as a squad member.
On June the 3rd Tameifuna was named as part of the All Blacks squad for the Ireland test series. Although the team played Ireland three times over consecutive weekends, Ben Tameifuna was unable to break into match day 22. He will have to wait for his an opportunity to get his first All Black test cap.
|This Ben Tameifuna rugby profile is part of a series of RugbyFix 2012 Super Rugby Player Profiles highlighting new talent that has burst onto the scene in the 2012 Super Rugby season.|
From the Auckland Rugby League Fields to U20 Rugby Junior World Champion
Ben Tameifuna was born on the 30th of August, 1991 and debuted as a tighthead for the Hawkes Bay Magpies in New Zealand’s ITM Cup in 2011. Tameifuna is one of a number of promising young New Zealand rugby players who won the 2011 U20 Junior World Championships for the New Zealand Under 20s, including the previously profiled Beauden Barrett and fellow Chief Brodie Retallick. Tameifuna spent his early childhood years playing rugby league in Auckland, before him and his family moved to the Hawkes Bay. He attended Hastings Boys’ High School and went onto gain selection for New Zealand Secondary Schools, the New Zealand Under 20s and eventually the Magpies.
Ben Tameifuna debuts for the Chiefs at Twenty Years Old
Ben Tameifuna debuted for the Chiefs in the second round of the 2012 Super Rugby tournament following the injuries to props Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith. He anchored the scrum with his uncle and fellow Hawkes Bay player, try scoring loosehead prop Sona Taumalolo. At only twenty, simply surviving his first Super Rugby game was impressive, but it was the following week against the Super Rugby dynasty, the Crusaders, that Ben Tameifuna signalled his intentions. Against an All Black front row in Ben and Owen Franks and Corey Flynn, the unheralded Chiefs front row featuring young Tameifuna not only held their own, but dominated their vaunted opposites. Leading up to his debut this Super Rugby season Ben Tameifuna received a lot of attention as being one of the heaviest players in the tournament. At 138kg but only 1.82m tall, he has a very low centre of gravity, making him hard to bend at scrum time.
At their own admission, the Chiefs coaching staff may have held him back longer before throwing him into professional rugby. However, injuries did not allow them to take a soft approach. Fortunately, as it turns out, softly isn’t Tameifuna’s style anyway. His size combined with an unmovable attitude at scrum time makes him a formidable opponent at scrum size. Scarily, the only part of his game that can’t be coached, attitude and aggression at scrum time, he has in bucket loads. There is also the occasional glimpse of the ball skills he honed playing hooker and half back at rugby league in his early years. Although he would be the first to admit he is probably carrying too much weight, he has played full 80 minutes Super Rugby games on a number of occasions. As he finds the right balance between fitness and size and if he can hold off on the predictable offers from overseas clubs, we should see plenty of Ben Tameifuna in the years to come.