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The Tasman culture that drove Levi Aumua to sign with the Crusaders

By Adam Julian
(Photo by Evan Barnes/Getty Images)

Levi Aumua scored two tries for a resurgent Tasman in their sixth-round 29-18 victory over Taranaki in New Plymouth in the NPC on Sunday.

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Taranaki dominated much of the match but failed to translate opportunities into points. By contrast, Tasman was clinical when chances arose with damaging centre Aumua to the fore.  With three consecutive wins, the Mako have improved to 5-2 and are on course for a top-four finish in the regular season.

It’s the ability to steamroll defenders that lured the Crusaders to sign Aumua for the 2024 Super Rugby season. With three All Blacks midfielders David Havili, Braydon Ennor, and Dallas McLeod it’s not like the seven-time defending champions need more good players so why leave Moana Pasifika for Christchurch?

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“Being at Tasman every second player is a Crusader so I’ve always heard what it’s like to be a Crusader and now I want to feel that,” Aumua told RugbyPass. 

“I have a burning desire to become an All Black and I think I can further grow at the Crusaders.”

Aumua played 22 matches for Moana Pasifika and scored eight tries. In 2023 he ranked in the top ten of Super Rugby for defenders beaten and clean breaks.

“It was a tough one leaving Moana Pasifika. They gave me a lifeline and a platform to show what I can do and I’m very grateful for that.”

Stints at the Blues and Chiefs where he played a combined six matches in two seasons were not a success, but Aumua has always been a powerhouse.

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Born in West Auckland, the Waitemata and Waitakere junior shifted to Perth when he was nine. His mother Audrey completed a Ph.D. in public health and is prominent in the field.

Aumua accepted scholarships to Nudgee College and then Brisbane Grammar School making a big impression in the prestigious GPS competition as a loose forward.

A stint followed in league with the Brisbane Broncos Under 20s before he swapped between Bordeaux (France) and Brisbane Souths Magpies for three years. He was good but the diet was an ongoing challenge.

“When I was young, I was a bit bigger than the other kids and I stayed that way. I’d like to think that’s my parents’ genetics and it did help me a lot,” Aumua said.

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“The trouble was I didn’t work as hard as I could. Being naturally fit and strong got me by and it only got me so far.

“Being a Pacific Islander I love my food. It’s taken me a long time to get on top of that. You can’t perform consistently at this level without a good diet.”

Tasman has extracted greater consistency out of Aumua. He’s made 54 appearances and scored 18 tries for the Mako who until last year made the NPC semi-finals for a decade.

In 2019 they won the competition with a perfect 12-0 record, the first team to complete an unblemished season since Auckland in 2007.

“When I first signed for Tasman, I’d never heard of them. When I got to Nelson it was a bit of a shock. I’m used to big cities, and I was like where’s the rest of it,” Aumua laughed.

“Once I settled in the environment and got to know the players, I noticed a different vibe with this team. It was tight-knit, and connected, a brotherhood that was something I’d never been a part of before. We hold each other accountable but have each other’s backs. Great people off the field are reflected on the field.”

Aumua has developed a strong chemistry in midfield with Munster-bound Alex Nankivell.

“It’s a funny relationship. We’ve been side by side for half a dozen years yet we’re quite different. He demands a lot and sometimes the players don’t agree with how the message is delivered but you need that guy. He’s a great player and an even better lad off the field.”

Aumua attributes spells with Hino Red Dolphins and Toyota in Japan has added further nuance and discipline to his game. In 2022 he made the All Blacks XV tour of the UK and Ireland. He’s determined Tasman will finish 2023 on a strong note.

“Reviewing the win against Taranaki we found they are a strong side with experienced players and threats all over the park. They don’t play the usual structure and though we had a few leaks at set-piece our defence was good and wins for us in New Plymouth are unheard of,” Aumua said.

“The potential is there for us to go far in this competition. We’re building each week. The two losses to Northland and Wellington were a bit of a turning point for us. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

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Andrew 280 days ago

Nankivell will play for Ireland now.

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