Special debut for Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

Highlanders Fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens scores a try in the tackle of Moana Pasifika...
Highlanders Fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens scores a try in the tackle of Moana Pasifika players Pepesana Patafilo (left) and James Lay during the Super Rugby Pacific match at Forsyth Barr stadium on Saturday night. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
There is a new Highlanders hero in town — and you might want to start practising how to spell his name.

Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens took to his new theatre like an accomplished star on Saturday night as he marked a wonderful debut for the Highlanders with two tries and a fine all-round performance.

He was just happy he was able to please a couple of young family members.

"It’s a special one, not only for me but for my family, who are down here," he said after the 35-21 win over Moana Pasifika.

"My mum, my sister, her partner — and they’ve got two kids. It was the kids’ first time on a plane, and my sister’s first time in Dunedin."

Not that Uncle Jacob had promised the youngsters he would score a try.

"I promised I’d pick them up at the airport but that’s as far as we got.

"Hopefully they’re stoked with the performance."

The fullback’s impact on the game was revealed on the statistics sheet.

His 96m on 11 carries were 32m more than the next best on the park, and he had an outrageous nine in the defenders beaten category.

Small wonder Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens was happy to reflect on a fine first-up effort for the team he joined from the Blues in the offseason.

"I was kind of looking for opportunities in the game, and thankfully they came.

"I haven’t hit my top-end speed in a while so I was happy to get a few holes and get a few touches and let my game go from there."

He said the Highlanders had to regroup at the break after a terrible finish to the first half let Moana Pasifika back into the game.

"We were our own worst enemies, letting pressure off by giving away silly penalties, and unforced errors.

"That’s not us. We tried to fix it. We knew Moana would come and be physical, and they’d have patches where they’d take momentum."

Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens revelled in the chance to run into space but also showed a handy boot.

He was keen to develop his kicking game to make sure he posed plenty of threats at the back.