Meet Oliver Jager, the Irish-reared, English-born tighthead who at the age of 25 is dreaming about doing the haka for the All Blacks rather than facing it as Europeans traditionally do.
Despite coming through the Irish system and playing for Blackrock College, the famed alma mater of Brian O’Driscoll and so many other celebrated Ireland players, Jager’s wanderlust resulted in him attending the Crusaders international high-performance unit in 2013.
He liked what he saw, stuck it out to see could he make the Crusaders academy, and now, all these years later he is a regular off the Super Rugby club’s bench and dreaming of an All Blacks debut having signed on for another two years in Christchurch.
His story is quite the rugby reversal. So often in the past, the narrative has been of New Zealanders who have taken themselves to European clubs and went on to represent countries they have qualified for via World Rugby’s residency rules.
Now, the boot is firmly on the other foot as front row forward Jager, who took on the 2017 Lions as part of the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei, has his sights set on grabbing the No3 Crusaders shirt off Michael Alaalatoa and working his way into the mind of new All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
"Guys were messaging each other on Instagram: 'Like bro, I'm hearing you are getting pay cuts'. This is guys from other English clubs and I'm just like, 'Bro I have no f***in' clue'"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 8, 2020
Speaking in a life and times interview on RugbyPass, the promising prop told Jim Hamilton about his hopes and dreams of representing the All Blacks and getting to perform the haka. “It would be pretty bloody cool,” he said. “The funny thing about it is you grow up wanting to face the haka and I grew up the exact same way. In the northern hemisphere facing the haka is something you always dream of.
“Just to be able to be in the position where I have a chance – whether it be a big chance, a small chance, it doesn’t matter – I feel like I have a small chance in order to actually do the haka, that is something special. That is something I want to drive for and if you are a player and you’re not trying to play for the best team in the game or make you the best player in the game, you are doing the wrong thing. That is what I see myself wanting to do.”
Quizzed on his national allegiance, Jager had no hesitation explaining his aspirations of representing the All Blacks. “I have just signed on two years here with the Crusaders and I’m really gunning on first of all cementing the No3 jersey at Crusaders because that is my main goal at the moment.
“Obviously with Mike (Alaalatoa) here it’s fantastic competition, it will only make us both better players. I find it definitely makes myself a better player and I hope that me pushing behind him makes him a better player too. At the moment my sole focus is to play Crusaders and make the No3 jersey mine. For the future, I definitely would love to see myself playing in a black jersey. It would be something real cool.
“Obviously being from Ireland, born in England, growing up in the northern hemisphere you hear of everyone coming up from the southern hemisphere to England, Ireland. Everyone in the northern hemisphere has had a couple of players play up there, the Bundee Akis, the (Riki) Fluteys, all those players.
“You never hear really the other way around and it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to have the chance of doing it – but doing it is a whole other story. I feel like I need to get a lot better, really focus my game a lot more. But at the moment to answer your question, I would probably like to see myself as an All Black ahead of Ireland.”
They have the potential to become so many fans' second favourite team ? https://t.co/iQGFnjRPKA
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 10, 2020
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