From the outset, the Tasman Mako have been blessed with outstanding leaders.
In recent times, current coaches Andrew Goodman and Shane Christie led various campaigns with calm authority and the ability to inspire those around them with both deeds and words.
Now David Havili has the captain’s role, and what a fine leader he has become.
In today’s Mitre 10 Cup table-topping premiership clash with Waikato his astounding variety of skills were on display.
Losing the toss was probably his only mistake of the afternoon, but it meant his side had to play the first 40 into a strong north-westerly wind.
With the home team under the pump early as the Mooloo men strove to take advantage of the conditions and boss the game it was the skipper who turned the tables, snatching a timely interception and sprinting 70m to score against the run of play.
His second try stretched the Mako lead to 27-5 early in the second spell then, when Waikato scored twice in quick succession to narrow the gap to 10, he popped up once more with more individual brilliance to bag his third and put the issue beyond doubt.
But wasn’t just his tries that caught the eye. His defence was, as always, first class, along with his ability to read play from the back as well as timing passes designed to put others into gaps.
The versatile skipper relished a return to the 15 jersey after slotting into the midfield last week.
“I definitely love playing 15 but it’s good to have that extra string to your bow, playing at 12.”
David said that despite his side holding some handy advantages during the 80 minutes, he never felt they had the game won until the final whistle.
“You never feel that you have cracked them … it was tough playing into that breeze in the first half and we were glad to have that buffer at halftime … but then they came back, like Waikato always do.”
He admitted he would have opted to play with the wind if he had won the toss but suggested [losing the toss] may have worked in Tasman’s favour.
“We went out there with the mindset of carrying the ball … it was tough to exit and thankfully our defence was on today.”
Although Tasman lost four key players to the All Blacks camp this week their replacements stepped up in fine fashion, David quick to point out that they were by no means “new” players – Isaac Salmon, Alex Ainley, Sione Havili and Alex Nankivell bringing a wealth of experience to the mix.
“These guys have been round for a while. Obviously now is their opportunity … it is awesome for us to have guys in the All Blacks, but we treated it as a challenge this week for those guys to step into their shoes and I thought they did that today.”
They certainly did, all four bringing defensive steel to the party and executing their core roles professionally.
Another top performer was young lock Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta who followed up a man-of-the-match effort against Counties with another big shift today.
Jacob Norris, the Mako go-to-guy at lineout time, is becoming increasingly influential, while Andrew Makalio is relishing regular game time and the chance to run in the wide channels, while scoring regular tries on the back of unstoppable lineout drives.
Halfback Dwayne Polataivao kicked well into the breeze while centre Fetuli Paea continues to prove a handful, on both sides of the ball.
The Sparkies, as the Mako bench is known, are providing impact and continuity, with halfback Louie Chapman, flanker Braden Stewart and hooker Quentin MacDonald, who was extremely unlucky not to bag a “welcome back” try, to the fore.
Along with their five tries, it was the suffocating Mako defence that sealed the deal.
Defence coach Shane Christie was pleased with his charges.
“For a team to hold out Waikato, who have been an outstanding attacking team in the first two rounds, the boys should be really proud of themselves … the way we prepared and executed our defence, not for 80 minutes, but man that was a pretty good effort for the majority of the game,” he added.
Next Sunday it is off to Albany and a meeting with former Mako coach Kieran Keane’s North Harbour team. Kick off is 2.05pm.