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
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
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