That the pride of being selected for your country can bring a tear to a grown man’s eye is well-known, but All Black-to-be Folau Fakatava could barely turn the water works off when his name was read out on Monday.
His partner, family back in Tonga and his friends all joined in by phone and video call after the squad announcement as Fakatava realised a long-held dream.
“It was the longest cry I have done in a long time. It was like a happy cry, unreal, overwhelmed, because I knew how my family would feel,” he told the All Blacks’ website.
“We couldn’t believe it. They are so proud, my family and friends, and they can’t wait to see me out there in the black jersey.”
He might have returned to Hawke’s Bay this season had it not been for a niggly knee injury, but encouragement from Ian Foster and the mentoring through the frustration and rehab from Smith were key to keeping him in Dunedin.
“Coming from Tonga, Aaron was my idol and coming to the Highlanders and training with him, learning from him, he’s a legend,” he said.
“I told him, ‘I am coming for you’, and he knows I am putting a little pressure on him. At the same time, that is how rugby players compete with each other to be the best that we can be, and especially for the team.
“He’s the man, he always looks after us young players.
“It’s always tough for us coming from the islands, but it is up to us to put in the hard work, and the sacrifices, to be in this top level. It’s unreal. I’m speechless right now.”