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Rugby-mad German on the path to playing for the All Blacks

After transferring midway around the globe to New Zealand from Frankfurt, rugby-mad German Anton Segner is on the trail to the All Blacks having already worn the coveted black jersey for the nationwide Below-20 group.

Information Zealand — second on this planet rankings — kicked off their end-of-year tour on the weekend by hammering america in Washington earlier than heading to Europe the place they play Wales on Saturday.

Again in New Zealand, Segner is lapping up every thing he’s studying taking part in provincial rugby.

His final aim is to play for the All Blacks, for whom he could be eligible in 2022 after 5 years residing in New Zealand.

Soccer is king in Germany, the place rugby is a minority sport and the boys’s group is ranked thirtieth on this planet.

But 20-year-old Segner has solely had eyes for the oval ball since his first periods at native membership SC Frankfurt 1880, the place he was usually coached by New Zealanders.

Drawn by the game’s physicality and camaraderie, he yearned to play in New Zealand, fueled by his coaches’ tales of rugby down underneath.

“Rugby in New Zealand is like soccer in Germany — each child appears to go round with a ball underneath their arm,” Segner mentioned from New Zealand.

Segner jetted off in 2017 to review on New Zealand’s South Island on the prestigious Nelson School, a faculty with a robust rugby custom which has produced a number of All Blacks together with present check heart David Havili.

After beginning the interview in German, Segner switches to near-perfect English with a heavy Kiwi accent, which is extra Whangarei than Frankfurt.

“That’s from hanging round my teammates a lot,” he laughs.

His rise via the junior ranks of New Zealand rugby has been nothing in need of meteoric.

His expertise as a back-row ahead noticed him captain the Nelson School first XV and earn choice for the New Zealand Colleges group in 2018.

“It was unimaginable, an enormous honor,” he mentioned of his debut towards Tonga.

Performing the haka — the ceremonial pre-match Maori problem — was not an issue.

“As a 10- or 11-year-old in Germany, I used to follow in entrance of the mirror,” he explains.

“You must actually go for it, otherwise you appear like an fool,” he provides with a smile.

His performances in schoolboy rugby led to knowledgeable contract with the Nelson-based Tasman Mako, who play in New Zealand’s Nationwide Provincial Championship (NPC).

“I’ve been lucky sufficient to study from individuals who have made it to the highest degree,” mentioned Segner, whose Mako teammates Havili, Ethan Blackadder and Finlay Christie are touring with the All Blacks.

“I nonetheless have an enormous quantity to study and I find it irresistible.”

To deal with the bodily calls for, he has bulked up, weighing 110 kg in comparison with 95 kg when he first arrived.

Segner gained big-match expertise final November when he got here off the bench in Tasman’s nail-biting 13-12 win at Auckland to win the NPC Premiership last on Eden Park’s hallowed turf.

He describes the expertise as “in all probability the toughest recreation” since transferring to New Zealand, however Tasman head coach Andrew Goodman mentioned the younger German got here via with flying colors.

“He got here on and made a few good performs which for somebody so younger was fairly cool,” Goodman advised AFP.

“He’s actually thrown himself into his rugby — he’s one of many final to depart coaching and all the time asks quite a lot of questions.”

In July, Segner performed for New Zealand’s Below-20s in a 73-0 demolition of the Cook dinner Islands’ senior group in Auckland.

As captain of the Below-20 group at Tremendous Rugby franchise the Crusaders, he has skilled alongside the likes of All Blacks forwards Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor.

“I used to be star struck,” admitted Segner, who resisted the temptation to place in a giant deal with on any of his idols.

“If I injured any of them, I’d in all probability have been deported again to Germany,” he joked.

His speedy aim is to earn “stable recreation time” for Tasman to spice up his probabilities of a full-time Tremendous Rugby contract.

COVID-19 journey restrictions means it has been two years since he returned house, the place his progress is carefully adopted.

“It’s a tremendous story — a younger participant from Germany who is best than most New Zealanders (his age),” mentioned Tilo Barz, head of youth rugby at Segner’s former membership in Frankfurt.

“Individuals usually ask why he isn’t taking part in for Germany, nevertheless it’s as a result of he’s just too good — he’s taking part in at one other degree.”

However may a German actually at some point play for the All Blacks?

“I don’t see why not, he has the persona and want to study — every thing is feasible for him,” provides Tasman head coach Goodman.

“He’s doing what he was born to do.”

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