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Wrecking ball Tevita Li set for North Harbour homecoming

By Tom Vinicombe
Tevita Li. (Photo by David Rowland/Photosport)

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North Harbour have bolstered their stocks both up front and out wide ahead of this year’s NPC, bringing in two players with ample Super Rugby experience.

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Hurricanes prop Alex Fidow and former Blues and Highlanders flyer Tevita Li have both put pen to paper for Harbour for the 2022 season, adding some exciting ball-running talent to their ranks.

Fidow kicked off his provincial career with Wellington in 2016 and has accumulated almost a half-century of caps for the Lions over the past six campaigns. The dynamic carrier has also clocked up 25 appearances for the Hurricanes – though found himself on the outer this year, featuring just twice throughout the Super Rugby Pacific season.

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Fidow joins fellow prop Sione Mafileo and hookers Rhys Marshall and Luteru Tolai as front-rowers in the North Harbour squad with Super Rugby experience.

The addition of former provincial star Li will also add some exceptional finishing ability out wide for Harbour, who finished in second place in last year’s Championship division, falling to Taranaki at the final hurdle.

27-year-old Li was a regular fixture on the left wing for Harbour from 2013 through to 2018, making over 55 appearances for the Hibiscus and scoring 36 tries.

Li also spent three years with the Blues before shifting south to the Highlanders and was a fan favourite throughout his Super Rugby career thanks to his ability to regularly shirk off defenders.

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Following the 2019 season, Li headed to Japan to link up with the Tokyo Sungolith and has played alongside the likes of Samu Kerevi, Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie. As was the case in New Zealand, Li was a one-man wrecking ball for the aptly named Sungoliath and has established himself as one of the most destructive attacking threats in the competition.

Li will add to an already dangerous back division for North Harbour, including the likes of Moana Pasifika pairing Fine Inisi and Henry Taefu, as well as Chiefs pivot Bryn Gatland and recently signed Hurricanes halfback Jamie Booth.

The 2022 season will see a change in the NPC away from the Premiership-Championship split that’s been par for the course since 2011. After much frustration that teams consigned to the Championship couldn’t contest the top prize (despite being roughly equal with many of their Premiership opposition), the 14 teams will now be split across two pools – which will affect the opposition played, but won’t restrict any teams from competing for the top gong.

North Harbour find themselves in a group including Auckland, Canterbury, Manawatu, Northland, Taranaki and Tasman.

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The NPC is set to kick off on August 5, with North Harbour due to play their first match of the season on the following evening against local rivals Auckland at Eden Park.

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