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Daniel Rona: 'I work hard on my skills rather than running over people'

By Adam Julian
Daniel Rona with the ball in hand for the Chiefs. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Daniel Rona hasn’t lost in nine appearances for the Chiefs. Would they have won the Super Rugby Pacific final against the Crusaders last year had he played?

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“Oh, man. I don’t know about that; I didn’t even know that until you told me; the boys out there did their best,” Rona told RugbyPass.

“It’s nice being off the tools; concreting; it’s not that hard; I had a good crew,” Rona reflected when asked about his previous occupation.

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The 23-year-old was brought into the Chiefs as injury cover during pre-season last year.  The Taranaki centre was then awarded a 30-day “development” contract which expanded to a three-year deal in May. Covering injuries Rona proved mature and incisive.

“Anton Lienert-Brown went down in round one against the Crusaders and then Alex Nankivell went down. It was hard for those guys but it was awesome to get so many opportunities,” Rona said.

“I back my skills; I work hard on my skill sets rather than running over the top of people. I think that’s my point of difference.”

Rona started every match from round six to 11 in 2023. After brief appearances from the bench in wins over the Highlanders (28-7) and Blues (20-13) in the preceding two rounds, Rona was only off the field for 24 minutes in the next five weeks.

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His best display in that span was his last. He scored two tries and cut the Highlanders into ribbons in a 52-28 drubbing in Dunedin. Rona was surplus to requirements after the 29-20 win over the Reds in the quarter-final.

The Chiefs’ pre-season results were far from convincing. In Japan, they were thrashed 14-38 by the Saitama Wild Knights before a slender 35-30 victory over Kubota Spears. Last Friday the Chiefs succumbed to the Blues (24-38) on a festive afternoon at the Takapuna Rugby Club.

“Japan was awesome. We learned a lot about our game and each other,” Rona said.

“Saitama were a pretty good side. The biggest lesson in that game was executing our carry and clean better. Winning races to the breakdown and being clinical at the ruck is massive for us. Lachlan Boshier, an ex-Chief, really hurt us there.”

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The Chiefs have the ammunition to hurt the opposition in midfield. All Blacks Anton Lienert-Brown (70 Tests), Quinn Tupaea (14 Tests), M?ori All Black Rameka Poihipi, and promising youngster Gideon Wrampling are all available for selection with Rona whose half-brother Curtis played three Tests for the Wallabies in 2017.

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Daniel attended New Plymouth Boys’ High School where he started as a halfback before shifting into the First XV midfield.

In 2019 he was snapped up by the Taranaki Rugby Academy. He scored a try on his NPC debut against Waikato in 2020. In 2021 he featured in all ten wins by Taranaki en route to winning the now defunct NPC Championship.

In 2023 Taranaki won the NPC Premiership with Rona scoring a try in the 22-19 win over Hawke’s Bay in the final.

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