Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Samoan language lessons help Blues rugby players on and off the field

Avatar photo
Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

With Samoan Language Week coming up, Blues rugby tell how its players – and the team – are benefitting from some off-field training.

It was arguably the match of this year’s Super Rugby Pacific season, the top two teams – Blues and Hurricanes – battling it out in front of a packed Eden Park.

But when asked for his initial thoughts after the close encounter, Blues captain Sa’u Patrick Tuipulotu took the moment to greet everyone in his Samoan language.

“Si ou alofa Samoa, faapea le au maimoa mai nu’u ese. Malo le soifua maua ma le lagi e mama.”

It was a significant moment for the 31 year old veteran in honouring his Samoan roots. But just like rugby training, Sa’u’s cultural moment was credited to weekly Samoan language classes at Blues headquarters.

“In 2020, the Blues management reached out to the Centre of Pacific Languages, and asked them to put together a program to encourage the samoan players in the Blues to learn the language. So I was contracted to deliver that program.” says Samoan language tutor Sonny Natanielu.

Blues Personal Development Manager Brooke Kapa says that the classes are a response by the club to what the players had discussed for programmes outside of rugby but within the team.

“When it comes to my role, we’re there to support our players’ goals. I’ve been listening to the men and they have all indicated I guess the personal intention to grow and understand their language more,” Brooke says.

“There’s certainly a need for it, because so many Pacific peoples are finding themselves in high roles in professional sports.”

Natanielu who runs the lessons on Mondays with a few of the Samoan boys in the team says the classes had been running for five to six weeks enabling the players to connect with the Samoan language in their daily lives.

“A few years back during the lockdowns, Stephen Peorfeta was asked by the Taranaki Football Union, to give a message to encourage the Samoan community in Taranaki to stay strong during the lockdowns,” Natanielu says.

“Another one of the boys was the MC for his sister’s birthday, so we had to give him just a little bit more of the oratory lessons to help him.

“So these guys are finding, they’re wanting to find uses for it in their everyday language so that it’s something, it’s real and not just something that they watch on a TV or hear in a classroom, but they can actually start to practise it in the different situations they find themselves in.”

For Sa’u Patrick Tuipulotu, his role as a leader at the Blues has been a challenging journey over the years. 

However, having an initiative such as the language classes has benefited him both in his on and off-field performances and also helped shape his leadership qualities. 

“That’s where I have probably found a lot of meaning in terms of leadership and how I have grown in being able to try and learn that part of it as well as being a good representative,” Sa’u says.

“This is the second time round I have done the class, I felt like I benefited quite well from the first class and sort of fell off the journey in terms of not practising. And to hear Sonny was coming back to do the class, I was really keen to get back into it.”

As they progress through their last remaining matches and hopefully secure this year’s championship title, Sa’u is hoping that initiatives such as the language classes can be continued in other sports codes.

“Yeah I think it’s powerful stuff when you’re strong in your beliefs and who you are. It really brings the best out of you. And that;s what I felt when I was first learning the language a couple of years ago.”

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive daily updates direct to your inbox!

*we hate spam as much as you do