The Umaga Influence
Tana Umaga is still one of the most respected men in world rugby and a year on since he first arrived at Counties Manukau, it is easy to see his influence on the players and how he complements Head Coach Milton Haig and Steve Jackson.
It is well known that great rugby players don’t always make great coaches; however Steelers’ Head Coach Milton Haig said this is not an issue for Umaga at Counties Manukau. Having started his coaching career in Toulon where he coached his side to win the French 2nd Division and move up to 1st Division, Umaga was provided an opportunity last year to develop his trade in his home country, in South Auckland.
“Tana has adapted to high-level coaching very easily. As you would expect with a former All Black Captain, his tactical knowledge is superior and he really cares about the development of the boys and helping them become better players. He contributes hugely to our environment, gives the boys confidence, genuinely cares about the players and always puts the team first. He is a valuable part of the Counties Manukau family and understands the importance of growth and development of the Union as a whole. He is a coach for all the right reasons.”
Umaga has a great rapport with the players and has the ability to bring out the best in people. He has extremely high standards but leads by example. He has one of the lowest body fat contents in Super Rugby and is fastidious about what he eats, except the night after a game when he will allow himself a special treat for dinner – usually KFC. The fact that at 38 he has shown he can still foot it at Super Rugby level and is still breaking records by becoming the oldest player to score a try in Super Rugby this year is a testament to the character of Umaga.
What does the future hold for Umaga? As you would expect of someone of Umaga’s caliber, there are constantly offers from all over the world flowing in for him; however at the moment he is happy at Counties Manukau. “I’m really enjoying being part of the Counties Manukau family; it is a great area with great people. There is a lot of young talent in the area which I find really exciting which, if developed using the systems we have in place, will hold the future of Counties Manukau rugby in good stead. ” When asked if he will play again next year, Umaga replies “There is one thing I have learned in this life – it is never say never! I love playing rugby, always have and always will. “