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'Name me another tighthead prop who has played the amount of league games John Afoa has?'

By Liam Heagney
Bristol Bears' John Afoa. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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Pat Lam has paid homage to the enormous bang for buck that Bristol are enjoying from John Afoa, the 36-cap 2011 All Blacks World Cup winner, who put pen to paper at Ashton Gate in summer 2018. Two years later, the 37-year-old veteran tighthead is sill exhibiting his tremendous durability.


This Saturday’s latest outing against Worcester will be his 41st appearance in the Bears’ 47 Premiership matches since he joined and his 35th league start as No3. His ability to clock up huge mileage at Bristol is in keeping with the pattern of his career elsewhere.

There were 78 Premiership appearances in his four seasons at Gloucester, 69 as a starter, there was another 38 PRO12 appearances at Ulster, 32 as a starter, while he became a Super Rugby centurion during his eight seasons at the Blues in his native Auckland, starting 92 of his 100 appearances.

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Rather than wither with age, Afoa has continued to age like a fine wine and he was at the heart of the opening Bristol 2020/21 performance which came within a late try of securing a rare win at Wasps. 

Lam can’t get enough of his ageless wonder prop. “John is a legend,” he enthused. “Name me another tighthead prop who has played the amount of league games he has, Premiership, PRO14, Super Rugby – he was a centurion at the Blues as well?

“That is a credit to his preparation, that’s a credit to his professionalism as well but that’s the rugby I’m talking about, it’s another level with the impact that he has around this place which is why I was keen to bring him here. A lot of our growth as a team can be attributed to the impact that John makes amongst the guys.


Awesome role model and he has still got his family life as well. In our leadership group he said initially he would just help out behind, but I said I need you in the group. So he looks after the mentors, sets up the mentorship programme within our group.

“I will give you an example: he was the right guy to be the forwards leader last week (at Wasps) but he said to me, give it to someone and I’ll support them, I’ll bring them up to make sure they come through.

“That was Chris Vui last week and I thought he was outstanding. Chris has taken some real ownership to go to another level as well and John just supported him. It’s just an insight into John that I’d say a lot of people who know him well wouldn’t be surprised by the comments I’m making. He is 37 and the way he plays the game, you wouldn’t recognise he is 37.”


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