Pasifika & Whanganui rugby provide combatants for clash

By J B Phillips

Wanganui rugby can be doubly proud that it provides two locally-educated members of the Moana Pasifika international rugby side to play the NZ Maoris at Hamilton on Saturday.

2015 – Stephen Perofeta is one of three Wanganui players named in the wider Hurricanes U18 development squad. Photo: Stuart Munro

Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Stephen Perofeta started their first-class careers as 1st XV schoolboys with Steelform Wanganui representative teams, both helping the Butcher Boys win Meads Cup championship titles and were selected in NZ Heartland sides.

Perofeta, born in Whanganui on March 12, 1997, started his first-class career with Wanganui as a Collegiate School 1st XV player, scoring a try from the fullback berth in a 39-34 Bruce Steel Cup victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti at Levin In his rep debut in 2015.

He later took over the first five eighth berth from Areta Lama, scoring eight tries in his seven games for the union. He played in the 28-11 victory over South Canterbury in the Meads Cup final in Christchurch.

After gaining selection in the NZ Heartland team Perofeta was snapped up by Taranaki and has represented that province 32 times since 2016 including in successful Ranfurly Shield teams, scoring 78 points.

He signed up with the Blues Super franchise in 2017, scoring a try and kicking two conversions in a 24-19 debut against the Queensland Reds on his debut in Apia.

A week later he played first five when the Blues beat the touring British Lions 22-16 at Eden Park, playing a key role when All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Sonny Bill Williams scored tries.

The same season Perofeta kicked seven conversions in a 64-17 triumph over England in the world under-20 final after being called into the tournament as an emergency replacement substitute.

Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Right) , born in Suva on June 24th, 1986, made his first-class debut for Wanganui in 2005 while still at City College, scoring a try in each of his three NPC Div 2 matches that season under coaches Milton Haig and Guy Lennox.

He scored on debut as a replacement player in a 28-31 loss to North Otago at Cooks Gardens and also as a winger in a 15-43 loss to Hawke’s Bay at Napier and in the 27-15 home win over Nelson Bays on Cooks Gardens.

“Tiks” played a further 35 times for Wanganui until 2009, mainly from Marist (44 tries – 220 pts in 2006-07-08) and then for Kaierau in 2009 (eight tries) before moving to Manawatu where he repped 65 times between 2010-14.

He scored 120 points (24 tries) for Wanganui and 155 for Manawatu plus 15 from nine appearances for North Harbour last year.

While playing locally he helped the Butcher Boys win the 2008 and 2009 Meads Cup finals, both against Mid Canterbury, after collecting silver medals against Wairarapa-Bush in 2006 and North Otago in 2007..

In 2008 he was named in the NZ Heartland team and again in 2009  when the side beat a USA XV 19-14 under coach Guy Lennox at Salt Lake City.

To round off a fine season he was named NZ Heartland Player of the Year.

Between 2012 and 2014 Tikoirotuma played 45 times for the Chiefs, including winning the Super Rugby championship in 2012.

In 2013 he played the first of his 24 international games for Fiji, being chosen for the end of year tour to Great Britain.

He signed a two-year contract to play in Britain for Harlequins in 2014 but after 13 matches switched to London Irish premiers in 2015 where he has had 53 appearances and scored 85 points.

Earlier this year he played for Latui back in Fiji.

Tikoirotuma, with 24 games for Fiji, is the most capped international in the Moana Pasifika team.

Next most international capped player is Samoan back and Tasman Mitre 10 rep Dwayne Potataivao with 16 matches. There are nine internationals and three World Cup Sevens players in the squad.

Note – Another member of the 2005 Wanganui City Colllege 1st XV, Paul Perez, also repped for Wanganui that season. He was born in Motootua, Samoa, on July 25th, 1986, and later switched from Wanganui to New Plymouth BHS, playing 32 games for Taranaki between 2006-09 before leaving for South Africa and playing 20 times for the Eastern Province Kings (2010-14) and for the Durban Sharks (2015) and has 31 caps for Toulouse in France since 2015.

Perez repped for Samoa at the 2005 World Cup Sevens tournament in Hong Kong.

Perofeta is one of 15 Samoan players, Tikorotuma one of three Fijians and there are eight from Tonga in the Moana Pasifika team which will becoached by former All Black Tana Umaga.