Rangiuru flex their muscles

Tanerau Latimer at practice.

The opening five minutes of last weekend’s clash between home side Te Puna and Rangiuru ended any lingering doubts whether the promoted team from Te Puke could challenge the best in Baywide club rugby.

The first two scrums said it all. Both times the Te Puna scrums went into rapid reverse and after the second one they were shunted back over their own try line.

Respect gained and the huge home crowd was silenced.

Rangiuru have not played in the top Premiership competition for the best part of a decade. After early round wins over some of the teams further down the table this was their big test against last year’s runners-up.

Aided by a dominant pack and the rugby smarts of Bay of Plenty Steamers Isaac Te Aute and Elijah Nicholas in the backline, Rangiuru cruised to a 27-17 win.

It is a result that would have reverberated around the vast distance of the Bay of Plenty union.

At the heart of the renaissance at Rangiuru is one of their favorite sons in Tanerau Latimer, who put on a master class at flanker against Te Puna. He is also head coach and at 32 he is far from past it.

The man known to all as Lats has always had a superior work ethic and fearless approach in his role as an openside flanker. He epitomizes everything the beautiful Maori word mana stands for and has a career any player would be proud of.

It began aged just 17 when Sit Gordon Tietjens plucked him out of the Tauranga Boys’ College First XV in the 2003-2004 season and made him an international sevens star. In 2006 he won gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

His was the first name picked for the Bay of Plenty Steamers, he had a significant season at the Crusaders alongside Richie McCay before he began a 100-plus game tenure for the Chiefs, 17 games for the Maori All Blacks (mostly as captain), and then in 2009 the ultimate prize of making the All Blacks.

Following stints in Japan and France no one would hae begrudged Lats storing his boots in the back shed, focusing his attention on his orchard and raising a young family.

But giving back to the game is a big driver for him, particularly at Rangiuru where his love of the game started. He inherited a good sporting pedigree from uncles like All Blacks George Skudder and Maori All Blacks and Chiefs coach Matt Te Pou.

Initially he made his mark as a nationally ranked swimmer alongside future Olympian Moss Burmenster at the Greerton Swimming Club. He still holds a Bay of Plenty record in the 11-year-old boys’ 200m backstroke.

But rugby was always his destiny.

Now Lats is leading a new generation of future stars at his beloved Rangiuru as they challenge the top Bay of Plenty clubs for silverware in 2019.

These young men will never have a better role model to learn from.

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