Quick call-up a dream come true for Samisoni

Quick call-up a dream come true for Samisoni Samisoni scoring a try on debut

3 November 2021

Samisoni Tauke'aho (Soni) became the school’s third All Black with a surprise call up in July, making his debut at Waikato Stadium against Fiji.

Samisoni Tauke’aho (Sargood 2013-2015) was driving home to Hamilton after watching the All Blacks play Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium. Then came the unexpected phone call “probably the best call I have ever had.” It was from All Blacks manager Darren Shand. “He told me they wanted me to meet them in Dunedin before the first test against Fiji.”

“I got called about lunchtime and the flight to Christchurch, and then Dunedin, was at 4 o’clock. So, I had to do my washing and pack really quickly and then hit the road.”

While he may have got the callup due to injury, Soni, 24, had long been on the radar of All Blacks selectors. The son of a nurse mother, and policeman father, Soni grew up in Tonga, and was a standout junior rugby player at Tonga High School. He has an older brother, and a younger brother, as well as another three siblings his parents have adopted.

From Years 11-13, he moved to New Zealand, attending St Paul’s as a boarder, and quickly made his mark in the St Paul’s first XV rugby team as a skilful and physically powerful forward. He won selection for representative teams, including Waikato U16 and U19; New Zealand Secondary Schools, New Zealand Barbarians and the Chiefs.

Soni said he first felt relief stepping on to his home field at FMG Waikato Stadium, after the excitement of the selection.

“I got to achieve my dream of running on to be an All Black and after that it was just business as usual doing my job. Doing my part for the All Blacks.”

He did it in style, scoring two tries on debut. There were mixed emotions as travel restrictions meant his parents could not be there.

“But they were watching on the TV at my village, they were all tuning in, so that was pretty exciting.”

Soni thanked Andrew Gibbs, Ryan McCarthy and Paul Hodder for having a big influence on his development as a rugby player at St Paul’s and the person he is today.

After leaving school, as he adjusted to life in New Zealand, Soni boarded with Paul and Kirsty Hodder at their home in Hamilton East, and affectionately calls them his “New Zealand parents.”

Hodder, the school’s High Performance Rugby and Cricket co-ordinator, describes some of Soni’s outstanding qualities which led to his All Blacks selection.

“He is a world-class scrumager and reliable thrower into the lineout, and a physically direct player who is a ‘handful’ for the opposition.”

After a successful debut, Soni was selected for the All Blacks’ tour of Australia. Soni is planning for life after rugby and has started a law degree at the University of Waikato.

“Hopefully I get to finish it during my playing career and get to use it afterwards.”

Soni owns his own home in St Andrews, Hamilton, and lives with his partner Caitlin Lawry. His younger brother Tevita, a Year 13 boarder at St Paul’s (Sargood House) stayed with them during the recent Level 4 lockdown.

Aside from rugby, Soni loves walking his Golden Retriever dog in the neighbourhood and has recently purchased some golf clubs. “I am not very good at all,” he laughs. “But it is good to have something to get into aside from rugby.”

For now, it is all about the rugby, as Soni establishes himself in the All Blacks. Former Collegians to be selected for the All Blacks were Kit Fawcett (1976) (Sargood 1968-1971) and Geoff Hines (1980) (Sargood 1974-1977).