Sona Taumalolo, the prop who came so close to topping the 2012 Super Rugby try-scoring charts with 9 to his name, is making a return to New Zealand rugby.

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Taumalolo debuted for Hawke’s Bay in 2005 and was a massive part of their resurgence upon the Magpies re-joining the first division of NZ provincial rugby in 2006. He signed for the Chiefs in 2008 and spent five seasons with the Waikato-based side, propping up the scrum in the 2012 championship-winning season. Taumalolo was named in the RugbyPass Chiefs team of the decade earlier this year.

The Tongan international, who was originally set to retire from professional rugby in 2018 due to a spinal anomaly, will return to Hawke’s Bay for the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup season.

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“I am really excited to return to Hawkes Bay with the chance to again pull on the black and white jersey,” said Taumalolo of his return to his home province. “I look forward to sharing my experience with the young team and playing in front of the Magpies fans once again.”

Tongan-born Taumalolo moved to New Zealand in 2001 as a 19-year-old. He amassed 45 games for the Magpies and a half-century for the Chiefs before heading to France where he represented Perpignan, Racing 92, Grenoble and Provence Rugby in Marseille.

Medical tests in 2018 indicated that Taumalolo could be at severe risk of injury due to cervical spine anomalies, which deterred Grenoble signing the now-38-year-old for any further seasons after spending three years with the club. Instead, Taumalolo headed south to Marseille and has spent the last 18 months with Provence Rugby, earning 31 caps in the process.

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Providing Taumalolol is still fit and firing, he’ll attract plenty of fans to Napier when the Mitre 10 Cup kicks off in September.

“It’s great to have Sona back in the Bay and with the magpies for the 2020 Mitre 10 cup,” said Magpies coach Mark Ozich. “We’re looking forward to working with him and he’s a great addition to our squad with a proven track record. For Sona and his family, I know it’s an exciting time to return home and be amongst family and friends.”

Hawke’s Bay chief executive Jay Campbell shared similar sentiments, having worked with Taumalolo during his previous stint in Hawke’s Bay. “Sona is a crowd favourite amongst Magpies fans and the fact he wanted to return home and represent Clive [Taumalolo’s local rugby club] and the Magpies before he hangs up his boots epitomises what these teams mean to him. I’m sure everyone will be excited to see him running out on McLean Park once again”

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