Saynarvat Srisawat was born in South Auckland. His father is from Thailand and his mother a refugee who escaped war-torn Laos. Saynarvat in Laos means “to win.” In 2014 Saynarvat has been a winner.
At the recent Otahuhu College sports awards, Saynarvat (Head Boy) won the following prizes: Best senior male in Athletics, R...ugby Sevens player of the year; First XV player of the year, All-round Sportsman of the year and supreme Sportsperson of the year. In 2011 all these accolades were won by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Saynarvat has played rugby since primary school. He has always played in the backs and made a big impression in the 15 jersey this season.
Otahuhu finished fifth in the fiercely competitive 1A competition, their best finish since making the semi-finals in 1998.
Otahuhu lost by less than five points to eventual semi-finalists, Auckland Grammar School, St. Peter’s College and Sacred Heart College. In Round seven they stunned St. Kentigern College (26-20). For St. Kent’s it was their first defeat in 35 1A games and an obvious highlight of the season for Saynarvat and Otahuhu.
“We approached the St. Kent’s game like any other. We stuck to the game plan and got a bit lucky. I scored a try to make it 20-19 and then George (Finau) scored on fulltime. It was special to beat them.”
Otahuhu with a bit of luck could have been in the semi-finals. Of the narrow defeats suffered this season, Saynarvat says the defeat to Auckland Grammar School hurt the most.
“We lost to them (Grammar) by 12-7. They were the team to beat. They went onto to win it. We should have won that game.”
Another match that Otahuhu should have won was their National co-education semi-final against Feilding High School. Otahuhu lost by a point after a nervous and ill-disciplined effort.
In the third placed playoff, St. Kevin’s College from Oamaru suffered the Otahuhu backlash, thrashed by sixty points. Saynarvat scored a try from under his own goalposts in that game.
“If I see a gap I will always have a crack. It doesn't matter where I am on the field as long as I don’t get tackled.”
The instincts to attack from anywhere have been built up over five years. Saynarvat says the First XV had an experienced roster this year.
“Most of us have been together for five years. We are a tight group. We always said that our last year would be our best year.”
Otahuhu has plenty of experience in the coaching department. Leua Tamati who helped Otahuhu capture the 1A title in 1997 is the head coach of both the girls and boys teams. Saynarvat pays tribute to Tamati.
“Mr Tamati puts in a huge effort. It’s not appreciated how much he does. He has a great knowledge of the game.”
Superior knowledge of the game has helped Otahuhu achieve their best ever Sevens result. Otahuhu won the Auckland title and were semi-finalists at the Condor Sevens, losing to eventual championships Rotorua Boys’ High School.
At the Auckland Sevens, Otahuhu beat St Kentigern College in the semi-finals. Saynarvat and George Finau scored tries again. In the final Saynarvat scored a try as Otahuhu toppled Mount Albert Grammar. Saynarvat concedes, “We didn't expect to win it.”
At the Condor Sevens, Otahuhu won their first two pool games, but had to beat St Kent’s to make the Cup Quarter finals. St Kent’s leaped ahead by two tries, but Otahuhu rallied.
“I scored a try to get us back into it. We could see that St Kent’s were getting frustrated. They made mistakes and we got back on top.”
Saynarvat scored three tries and Otahuhu won 26-17. In the Cup Quarter Final against Francs Douglas, Saynarvat scored twice as Otahuhu won 33-7. Saynarvat collected another double in the 22-14 defeat to Rotorua in the semi-final. Saynarvat laments this was a game that Otahuhu could have won.
“Our defense let us down. We missed some crucial one on one tackles. Rotorua was a good side they had a lot of dangerous runners.”
Saynarvat was a surprise omission from the tournament team. “I have had a few people tell me that I should have been in the team, but I don’t really mind. I care more about the team.”
Saynarvat holds down two jobs, one in a Manukau retail store and the other for Fonterra. He scored excellence in Level 1 and 2 NCEA. In 2015 he intends to study sport and leisure in either Auckland or Hamilton.
Isaac Te Aute has played a lot of rugby for Rotorua Boys’ High School. The midfielder has accumulated 57 appearances for the First XV since debuting as a Year 10 student in 2011.
In 2014 Te Aute only played eight matches. Twice he broke his collar bone – in the pre-season against Sacred Heart College and in a representative fixture for the Chiefs Under-18’s.
Te Aute shares the frustration of being on the sideline for most of this season. “It was real hard. I had goals that I wanted to achieve and being injured meant I didn’t achieve those goals.”
The midfielder aspired to be in the New Zealand Schools’ team and had he been available he would have been a strong contender for selection. His vast experience combined with a slick all-round game, especially on attack, meant that despite being injured for most of the season, Te Aute felt that he was playing some of his best rugby for Rotorua this year.
“The best game I have ever played for the school was in the Chiefs Cup semi-final against Hamilton Boys’ High School. We beat them 15-0 and everything clicked that day.”
Rotorua went onto to win the Chiefs Cup thrashing Tauranga Boys’ College (43-21) in the final on the Rugby Channel. Rotorua had announced itself as a serious national threat, but a combination of injury and tragedy struck.
Te Aute insists that the Chiefs Cup matches were the only time that Rotorua had their “full strength” team. Rotorua would finish a disappointing fourth in Super 8.
A source of greater melancholy was a car crash that seriously injured second-five Kaine Lewis. Lewis, a Chiefs Under-18 representative, scored two tries in the Tauranga game. The Year 12 student was a passenger in a car that lost control one morning while driving in foggy and slippery conditions. Lewis has spent several months in a coma, and despite being off life support, he has suffered significant brain damage. Te Aute says what happened to Lewis has been devastating for the entire school.
“It’s affected the whole school not just the First XV. Everybody was real shocked.”
Personally Te Aute says it was “so hard” because Lewis is his midfield partner and somebody he has played with and against since intermediate.
“Playing for Lewis” was a big part of Rotorua’s build up to their sevens campaign. Captain and key playmaker, Te Aute knew that Rotorua had a strong team with a lot of experience. However the events surrounding the Lewis tragedy gave the team a “sharper edge” than usual.
“Coach Scott Mayhew (a Former North Otago representative) really hammered us.” Te Aute says, “We wanted to play a fast game, avoid too much contact and run around teams.”
At the Bay of Plenty Sevens, Rotorua quailed for the Condor Sevens with an easy win. In the semi-finals they defeated Tauranga Boys’ College (31-5) and in the final thrashed Opotiki College (40-0).
At the Condor Sevens Rotorua made a shaky start in their first game against Hastings Boys’ High School. A last play try to Latu Vaeno earned a narrow 22-17 victory. Earlier Hastings had been well-beaten by St. Kentigern College (29-19). Wesley Tameifuna, the brother of Chiefs prop Ben, scored two tries.
Upon first glance St. Kent’s looked formidable, but tries to Te Aute and Vaeno and a supreme all-round performance earned Rotorua a commanding 26-10 win and top place in their group. In the last game on Day One Rotorua beat Nelson College (12-0).
Te Aute says, “In the first game we were real nervous, but once we got over that we played well. The first game is always the toughest.”
In the quarter final on Sunday, Rotorua easily accounted for Otago Boys’ High School (33-7). Vaeno scored three tries and Te Aute crossed once again.
The semi-final against Auckland Champions, Otahuhu College was a real thriller. The game was in the balance when Rotorua led 17-14, late in the second-half, but were being pressured close to their goal-line. The ball was scrambled out to Te Aute who broke a tackle and dashed into space. Te Aute transferred the ball to Latu Vaeno who charged 40-meters and then put Ngarohi McGarvey-Black away for the winner. Earlier Vaeno showed his quality by scoring two tries, while Te Aute with typical opportunism scored a try. Saynarvant Srisawat kept Otahuhu in the contest with two sizzling individual tries.
Te Aute says Otahuhu was a “tough side” and the semi-final showed that Rotorua was not afraid to combine “structure with a bit of freestyle.”
In the final Rotorua’s organisation and spontaneity proved overwhelming for Scots College. Three tries in the first five minutes settled the contest, Rotorua eventually winning 33-19. McGarvey-Black scored two tries and Te Aute ensured he scored in every game on Day Two by crossing again.
Rotorua scored 25 tries in six games and had four players, Ma’ake Taulahi, Jone Lasaganibau, Vaeno and Te Aute named in the tournament team. Te Aute says it was a goal of his to make the tournament team, but he was genuinely surprised when he was named the player of the tournament.
“It was a big surprise. I thought I played pretty well, but we all did.”
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