18-year-old Otago pick no ordinary teenager

Saula Mau in action against Zingari early this season.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Saula Mau in action against Zingari early this season.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Otago is confident it has made the right call in drafting an 18-year-old prop into its Mitre 10 Cup squad.

But Saula Mau is not your ordinary teenager.

In his first year out of school the big Tongan is playing above his years. Mau, who attended Auckland Grammar last year, has been signed for Otago for the next three years and has joined the Mitre 10 Cup squad.

Mau is seriously big, weighing in at 145kg and 1.93m tall.

Mau came south from Auckland this year and has been playing well at tighthead prop for the table-topping Harbour side. Otago coach Ben Herring said Mau had good co-ordination and skills.

Mau, who played for the NZ Barbarians schools side in 2017 and the NZ schools side last year, was a young player with a big future, Herring said.

He had a fantastic character and a real willingness to work, and had been a stand-out at club level.

He played 80 minutes and had a sufficiently strong en-
gine to last the game.

Chased by four provincial unions, Mau had talked to union academy manager Paul Galland, who had enticed him to come south, Herring said.

He was aware of Mau's youth and was not going to rush him into the Mitre 10 Cup side. The Mitre 10 Cup squad was named earlier this week with tighthead props Hisa Sasagi and Giorgio Bower also picked in the squad.

Herring said that Mau could learn off the older props and was seen as a long-term project.

Provincial unions sometimes have limitations placed on playing time for young players at first-class level in their first year out of school.

But Mau's sheer physical presence should make him exempt from any limitations.

Herring said he was still checking on the fitness of other players and Vilimoni Koroi had suffered a grade 2 hamstring tear at the world sevens series tournament in Paris last weekend.

It was hard to gauge how long he would take to recover, Herring said.

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