Rugby: Caucaunibuca to return for Northland

Rupeni Caucaunibuca
Rupeni Caucaunibuca
Remember Rupeni Caucaunibuca?

Well, he's on his way back to play for the Taniwha.

The flying Fijian has signed a contract with the Northland Rugby Union (NRU) to play in this year's ITM Cup, pending the outcome of a fitness test on his knee by an orthopaedic surgeon yesterday.

NRU chief executive Jeremy Parkinson said if Caucau was declared fit it would bring an exciting element to Northland's ITM Cup side.

"He single-handedly won us a fair few games back in the early 2000s," said Parkinson.

Most Northland fans will remember with fondness the flair and x-factor Caucau provided on his way to the tryline.

Parkinson originally attracted Caucau to the region after scouting the then 20-year-old at the 2001 Wellington Sevens, helping him set up his first New Zealand bank account along the way.

Parkinson said the move to sign Caucau was always on the radar after the 115kg, 32-year-old made murmurs of wanting to return to Super Rugby.

This time, it was Awanui clubman Glen Subritzky who arranged a visa for Caucau to bring him back to the region.

During Caucau's time away from Northland, he has been surrounded by controversy as the star winger was caught up in on-field fights, which left him serving suspensions, and questions surrounding his fitness.

Fijian selector Dan Lobendahn told the Fiji Sun that the Fijian players were unfit after Caucau served a two-match ban for punching French flanker Olivier Magne during a wild brawl in their Rugby World Cup match in 2003.

"The players are unfit and that is why Rupeni Caucau resorted to fighting [against France]," Lobendahn said.

The last time the winger-cum-centre was seen on New Zealand television sets was in 2010 when Fiji played Australia and Caucau turned out at centre weighing 120kg.

He ruled himself out of Fiji's 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign as he preferred to remain with family in France, where he was playing for Toulouse.

The Fijian Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reported Caucau's contract in France lapsed at the start of this year, which was when talks with the NRU began.

The FBC also reported Northland was also looking at signing 22-year-old Jone Macilai.

- Cameron Leslie of the Northern Advocate