Rugby: Highlanders get best from Hoeata

Jarrad Hoeata, a hard-nosed member of the Highlanders pack, has been spotlighted as a future All Black.

He has a massive work rate and never backs down. Such commitment has enabled him to become a regular run-on player who has pushed All Black Tom Donnelly back to the bench.

Hoeata (27) has shown a hunger on the paddock which has impressed coach Jamie Joseph, who has told him that he is keeping Donnelly out of the starting XV.

"That's a bit of pressure on me," Hoeata said. "I know that I have to perform week in and week out because Tom is right on my heels." It has helped Hoeata to lift his own game.

"I know that if I don't perform the next week I'm going to be on the bench or out of the 22," he said.

Hoeata has relished the chance to pit himself against players from Australia and South Africa in the Super 15.

"I don't like them and it makes it easier to fire up for those games. I just throw my body at them, try to smash them, and come off best."

The Highlanders have been one of the form teams in this year's Super 15, winning seven of their nine games.

"We have a real hunger to do well and back your mate up," Hoeata said. "If one guy misses a tackle he knows that his mate is there backing him up."

Hoeata has played most of his first-class rugby for Taranaki as a blindside flanker, but has had six starts at lock and two at No 6 for the Highlanders.

"I don't mind where I play. I'm just loving being out on the field."

Hoeata met Joseph for the first time last year when he was in the New Zealand Maori team.

"I enjoyed Jamie's style of coaching. It just clicked with me."

Joseph has gained a reputation for being a tough, no-nonsense coach who keeps his players' feet firmly planted on the ground.

"He's a pretty intelligent footie player as well and comes up with some pretty good game plans," Hoeata said.

"That's one aspect of his coaching that he doesn't get many accolades for. I don't think he gets enough credit for that."

Hoeata played five games off the bench for the Chiefs last year but says he is enjoying the Highlanders culture more.

"From day one they talked about the Highlanders culture and all the boys have bought into it. It's awesome to be part of it.

"From the outset there was a push for the team to be good guys on and off the field, and to work hard for each other on the field and at training."

Hoeata's own game has thrived.

"I worked hard in the pre-season. Jamie used to play in my position and he's been a huge help in improving aspects of my game." Hoeata's play has become more consistent and accurate, faster and stronger.

"Over the last few years I would put in three good tackles but then one would slide high and I'd give away three points," he said. "I've tried to sharpen that up and make all my tackles and cleanouts count."

He learnt a valuable lesson when playing for the Chiefs last year.

"I found out how hard you have to train to stay at this level.

The last two years have been the hardest I've ever trained and it has paid off."

Hoeata first discovered what hard work was when he spent a year in the New Zealand Sevens squad under Gordon Tietjens in 2006.

He is now being talked about as a future All Black.

"It's nice to read that stuff. It obviously means that I'm on the right track.

"Each week I'm pushing as hard as I can. As long as the Highlanders do well I'm happy.

"The All Blacks is my long-term dream and it has been sitting at the back of my mind. But at the moment I'm just enjoying the Highlanders environment and playing winning rugby."

A feature of Hoeata's rugby with the Highlanders is his ball-handling skills and ability to take the ball in the air, skills developed from his schoolboy days at Tauranga Boys' High School when he was a member of the New Zealand secondary schools volleyball team.

Jarrad Hoeata 

Fact file 

Age: 27.
Born: Tauranga.
Education: Tauranga Boys' High School.
Home town: New Plymouth.
Sport: Rugby.
Position: Lock or No 6.
Height: 1.98m.
Weight: 112kg.
Record: Bay of Plenty Schoolboys, Canterbury and Crusaders Development teams, Taranaki (from 2006), NZ Sevens (2006), Chiefs (2010), Highlanders (2011).
Other sports: Volleyball (NZ secondary schools).

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