The 28-year-old made his international debut in NZ’s 78-0 warm-up match with Samoa ahead of the 2017 British and Irish Lions series and his first major involvement saw the blockbusting flanker collect an offload from Israel Dagg before sprinting away for a try.
Three months’ later, in his starting debut for the All Blacks, Fifita scored one of the tries of the season against Argentina in New Plymouth. Fifita, wearing the No. 6 jersey, received the ball 10-metres inside the Pumas’ half – right in the centre of the field – and made a bee-line for the corner post.
The despairing Argentinian defenders had no answer for the surprising pace of the big man, with Fifita diving down for his second test try.
While Fifita has not had much luck on the international scene in the ensuing years, mustering 12 appearances for the All Blacks over three seasons, the loose forward has continued to excite for Hurricanes and Wellington.
In Sunday’s Mitre 10 Cup match between Wellington and Counties Manukau, Fifita again impressed with his surprising speed, picking out an intercept 25-metres out from Wellington’s line and galloping the length of the field to dash any hopes of a late Counties comeback.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 25, 2020
While the Steelers led the game for the majority of the first half, their attempts to spread the ball wide in the second stanza were punished time and time again, with Fifita’s try the third intercept the Lions had picked up in quick succession.
The first, with the scores close at 25-20 in Wellington’s favour, was called back for offside. Right wing Wes Goosen was quick off the mark and pounced on a long Baden Kerr pass, but the man inside who had put pressure on Kerr and forced the pass and been a step too close to the Counties line before the breakdown had concluded.
The Steelers didn’t learn from their mistake, however, with Goosen picking out another wide pass less than five minutes later and dotting down to take the game 12 points clear of Counties with 10 minutes left to play.
Fifita struck shortly after and then capped off the game with a second try in the final play of the game – just minutes after fellow loosie Teariki Ben-Nicholas had scored a try off his own.
The game ended 53-20 in Wellington’s favour, which elevates them to second on the Premiership standings.
Fifita, who was regularly used in the second row during the Super Rugby Aotearoa season, recently signed a new contract extension to keep him in the nation’s capital for one more season.
If the Tongan-born forward can keep up his long-range efforts, more regular game time may be on offer in 2021.
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