Hamilton Boys High School students gave their rugby first XV team a serious welcome today – a school-wide haka to mark the team’s win at this year’s Sanix Youth World Rugby Tournament in Japan.
In the grand final Hamilton battled against Higashi Fukuoka High School from Japan with the young men from the mighty Waikato winning in the closing minutes by 28 to 22.
Hamilton Boys High School is no stranger to winning this tournament; it has done so four times previously in 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2023.
This time the Hamilton coach noticed schools around the world advancing in the game but is adamant New Zealand schools are still going to be hard to beat.
“I don't think in New Zealand we appreciate the improvement in Japanese rugby, and it is no surprise because the quality of Japanese coaching in top company teams has now filtered down to the universities and high schools,” Hamilton Boys High School coach Nigel Hotham said.
Rangiwai Lunjevich could now be regarded as the world’s best first five and fullback by age after the win in Japan and he is also a U18 NZ representative for touch.
Haka ‘switched us on’
He said the biggest challenge for the team was building strong relationships within the newly formed team with young players as there were many different cultural backgrounds and experiences.
“We needed to build a structure that was going to work for us. Māori culture such as doing haka worked for us as it switched us on before every game,” Lunjevich said.
Twelve schools from around the world participated in the tournament mostly from Japan but also included Australia, England, Taipei, China, and Aotearoa.
“They are solid and have good technique, definitely when I was trying to tackle it was pretty hard to get my arms around one of their quads,” Lunjevich said.
At today’s school assembly, the first XV members received their winning medals before a packed hall in front of teachers, parents, and friends, the room deafened by the school haka to celebrate the boys’ world champion win.
They were not the only ones celebrated.
The school’s inline hockey team had won the NZ National Championships and those who participated at this year’s Super 8 Cultural Festival won over all schools.