Cape Town - Vaea Fifita has expressed his confusion after being omitted
in favour of Jackson Hemopo for the All Blacks' Rugby Championship squad.
Despite being something of a revelation in last year's
tournament, numerous injuries have hampered Fifita's progress this year, with
the utility forward having fallen down the pecking order behind lock
combination Michael Fatialofa and Sam Lousi at the Hurricanes.
This has meant the 26-year-old has had to be content with
brief cameo appearances off the bench, which has left him short of match
"This has probably been the hardest year for me playing
Super, because I had a few injuries and then I come back and only play for like
30 minutes off the bench or 25. You're still unfit because you're coming back
from injury and you need to play 80 minutes every week to get fit and get up to
the speed of the game."
The final disappointment for the Fifita in an altogether
frustrating season came when he was a casualty of the trimming down of the
training squad to the final 33-man squad for the tournament.
According to Fifita, he was told by All Blacks coach Steve
Hansen that he was not selected because he had been used primarily as a lock by
the Hurricanes this season and therefore he would not use Fifita as a blindside
flank for the All Blacks.
Fifita was satisfied with this explanation at the time, but
was left puzzled when in a later interview, Hansen said he had picked Hemopo as
a back-up six and not a lock, despite Hemopo having played all season at lock
for the Highlanders.
"He told me that, but when I saw he got interviewed and
he said signed Hemopo to six, not lock, I kind of feel he's not telling me the
truth," Fifita told Stuff.
"But that's life."
Fifita says he prefers the number six jersey, but the reason
he was used at lock with the Hurricanes was because they were short on locks at
"They asked me and I told them I don't enjoy playing
lock," he told Stuff. "I prefer six, but I know I can't play six,
because [Brad Shields] is there.
"At the same time, I didn't mind, because I just wanted
"I like six, because I can use my athleticism to do
what I can do on the outside, rather just stay tight and do the hard work, like
running into a brick wall and getting your body tired."