Perenara talks swapping All Blacks for Maori: 'It's definitely not the hardest thing'
TJ Perenara is very much focussing on the positives after being overlooked for the All Blacks squad for the coming test series with Ireland.
Instead, Perenara will feature for the Maori All Blacks against the same opposition – and achieve a lifelong dream of representing the Maori composite side.
“It’s a proud moment for me,” Perenara said this week. “Not just in my career, but in my life.
“To represent my whanau on this stage is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s been a goal of mine and to be in this environment is a huge honour.”
Perenara has been an almost permanent fixture in the New Zealand national side since he first debuted against England in 2014 and, as such, has not had the opportunity to don the Maori All Blacks jersey.
While the 30-year-old would have naturally been gunning for another run with the All Blacks as they seek revenge against Ireland for last year’s loss in Dublin, the likes of Aaron Smith, Finlay Christie and new cap Folau Fakatava have pipped him at the post.
Still, Perenara and fellow Maori All Black Brad Weber have two crunch matches ahead of them to force Ian Foster and co to reassess their selections ahead of the Rugby Championship kicking off in August.
And although missing out on selection in NZ’s top side may have been a blow, Perenara suggested that it’s just a minor bump in the road.
“It’s definitely not the hardest thing I’ve been through, not even this year” he said. “There are a lot of things in life that get thrown at you. How you respond to that is the point.
“For me, the last couple of weeks have just been another step in my journey. I believe that for everything that happens and this is another step.
“My perspective on footy and life at the moment is that I don’t really have an end goal; making a team or winning whatever championship, that’s just part of my journey.
“My goal is to be a better athlete for my team, be a better player and a better person every single day. Having an end goal and dangling a carrot sells what I’m doing every day a bit short. Yes, I want to make teams, I want accolades and want to win because that’s all part of it. But that’s not the end goal for me.”
A X injury suffered during the Super Rugby Pacific pre-season meant Perenara had a slow start to the campaign, only making his first appearance for the year in the Hurricanes’ fourth fixture of the year – a disappointing and historic loss to Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart.
The abrasive halfback went on to make 10 appearances throughout the season, however, and was regularly tasked with captaining the team. By the end of the year, Perenara looked to be hitting a rich vein of form – but the All Blacks selectors still erred on the side of youth when picking their squad for July, gunning for 26-year-old Christie and 22-year-old Fakatava.
“There was no clear ‘This, that, you’re doing this well, you’re doing this poorly’ or whatever,” Perenara said of his conversation with the All Blacks coaches before the squad was named. “It was ‘Continue to play well, all the nines are playing well, and this is the direction we’ve chosen to go in.’
“It’s awesome for the boys who have made the All Blacks. They’re playing well. Good on them.
“Our job, all five of us, is to keep playing good rugby. It’s not only good for Maori rugby, but it’s good for New Zealand rugby to have five 9s playing good rugby and to have a big debate about who should be in.”
The Maori All Blacks will play Ireland in the first of their two matches next Wednesday, 29 June, at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.
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