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Christ's College pupil Ngane Punivai impresses for New Zealand Schools

A new Canterbury rugby talent has been unearthed at the trans-Tasman school rugby series the past two weeks.

Christ’s College fullback Ngane Punivai was the top try-scorer for the New Zealand Schools team, crossing the line four times in games against Fiji Schools and Australia Schools.

Punivai scored three times in New Zealand’s 45-19 victory over Fiji, and bagged another try a week later in a hard-fought 32-22 win against Australia.

The 18-year-old, who was the only Cantabrian to make the squad, was modest about his accomplishments.

“I was just on the end of it for most of them really – but it was cool to be able to get over the line a few times.”

Punivai said that playing for the New Zealand Schools team was an “awesome” experience.

“I made a lot of new friends, learnt a lot in terms of my rugby – it was unreal to have that level of coaching and calibre of players around me.”

“To be honest, it probably hasn’t sunk in that I’ve played in the black jersey twice.”

Strong year

Punivai’s selection in the national team capped off a memorable year for the Christ’s College deputy head boy, who also captained his school to the semi-finals of the UC Championship.

Christ’s College First XV coach Reuben Thorne said it was no surprise that Punivai had performed so well at the next level.

“Ngane’s a really good young man with very good character – he’s a natural leader.

“As a player, he’s very consistent and reliable, but also has that x-factor. He’s been our best player all year. In some ways he’s a bit like Jordie Barrett – same physique, good under the high ball and a good kicker.”

“He had a couple of hard years with Christ’s College not doing so well, but this year he’s really had a chance to show his talent.”

Punivai said that although he looks to players like Ben Smith and Israel Dagg for tips to improve his game – he’s not trying to copy any one player.

Like Barrett though, Punivai is heading to Lincoln University next year, where he is planning to enrol in a Bachelor of Commerce.

In terms of his rugby goals, he’s looking to play for Lincoln and perhaps crack the Canterbury under-19s.

Although his departure will leave a big hole at Christ’s College next year – there’s another Punivai ready to step up to the plate.

His younger brother, Isaiah Punivai, scored 16 tries this year, the most in the UC Championship.

By Tim Newman for The Press