A solitary Tauranga Boys’ College student has been included in the 2021 New Zealand Schools rugby team but, according to his coach, it has taken a team effort to get him there.
Toby Taylor is the only Bay of Plenty representative in this year’s squad, which is dominated by young players from the Waikato and Auckland regions.
Aidan Kuka, head coach of Tauranga Boys’ College First XV, says the entire school is “extremely proud” of Toby’s achievement.
Aidan describes Toby as a “big, strong” and unusually tall front-row. That height has meant Toby having to work hard on technique this year, especially when it comes to the scrum.
“He has put a lot of work in this year,” says Aidan.
“He has been a pleasure to work with because he is so keen.
“It is very rewarding for the young man as he puts a lot of time and effort into his rugby.”
Aidan is keen to highlight how important his teammates have been in elevating Toby to this level.
“Toby’s worked really hard to get himself into the selection frame,” says Aidan.
“With the support of his teammates Toby was able to string together some really strong performances this year.
“Our mantra of team first is really strong in our squad and it was good for Toby to have such competitive and supportive teammates to push him in games and training.”
Toby’s successful inclusion in the national secondary schools team completed a memorable week.
Along with four other Tauranga Boys’ College students, Grady Forbes, Reuben Palmer, Piripi Tapsell and Sloane Lankshear, Toby was named to the Chiefs Under-18 Development squad for an upcoming training camp.
Tauranga Boys’ College has a rich tradition of producing high-class rugby talent with the likes of the currently injured All Blacks captain Sam Cane, Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris and All Blacks prospect Aidan Ross all former students.
Head coach Aidan is keen to stress they cannot take all the credit for Toby’s development. This has been the youngster’s first year at Tauranga Boys’, after joining the rugby programme from Aquinas College.
Aidan was quick to praise the work done by Aquinas and the Te Taumata Rugby programme, which runs in conjunction with Te Wharekura o Mauao, on Toby’s game.
“A lot of the development work and basic fundamentals were obviously well developed over at Aquinas,” he says.
“We have been the benefactors of him coming to join our programme this year and providing Toby with that extra bit of coaching as well as that competitive training environment.”
International fixtures for the Schools team will not be possible, due to Covid-19, but the team will meet for a development week and take on the New Zealand Barbarian Under-18s as a curtain raiser for a Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on October, 8.
The Barbarian Under-18s team has its own Bay of Plenty rep, with Rotorua Boys’ High School’s Tamiro Armstrong included. The New Zealand Māori Under-18 side was also selected this week, with three more Rotorua Boys’ students present; Te Hamana Te Aute, Tama Whareaorere and Jericho Yorke.