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Stephen Perofeta opens up on how Sean Wainui's passing changed his career

By Ned Lester
Stephen Perofeta in action for Taranaki. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for Stephen Perofeta, with the keys to the Blues engine on offer in the absence of Beauden Barrett and higher honours within reach sans Richie Mo’unga.


The utility back has proven to possess an international-level skillset, starring in the All Blacks XV’s latest tour of Japan. But, it takes more than talent to succeed on the big stage.

The 26-year-old was asked what the biggest lessons he’d learnt from other players had been, and initially, Perofeta’s mind went to an iconic quote from Dan Carter.

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“I remember one from DC (Carter),” he told the You Decide Podcast. “The way he talked about pressure and not shying away from it – actually walking towards it. Pressure is a privilege.

“When you have those pressure moments, not taking a step back and letting it get to you, it’s just embracing it and walking towards it and owning it.

“But it’s through the confidence you have from your preparation.”


After recalling what that famous quote meant to him, Perofeta paused as he reflected on a defining moment in both his rugby journey and personal life.

On the 18th of October, 2021, New Zealand lost not just a remarkable rugby player, but a special individual in Sean Wainui.


Perofeta’s Taranaki teammate was carving out a career as a Chiefs icon, a Maori All Black and a fan favourite. Wainui was just 25 when he passed, a loss that inspired Perofeta to reassess his relationship with the game of rugby and those playing it by his side.

“Another big thing that keeps me grounded as well is just loving what you do and who you do it with. If you can’t care for people, when you’re going out on a field every week and you’re going into battle, if you’re not able to connect with them or know them on a personal level then you can’t push it.

“It was a realisation when Sean Wainui passed. We were close. When that news came, my mindset just shifted. We’re not in this game for long, we’re not here for long.

“I usually didn’t enjoy the companionship with the boys, I was just too serious. But then once that news came, I was like ‘f*ck’. I’ve got to just love the boys because you never know when you finish playing. You never know.


“That’s on another (level), that’s life and death. That taught me to love what you do and love who you’re doing it with.”

Perofeta paused before saying Wainui’s name, clearly in deep thought while recalling a time of grief.

Taranaki lifted the NPC trophy last October, almost two years to the day after Wainui’s passing.


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