From the seventh XV to starting Crusaders Under-18 fullback, Rico Syme has enjoyed a meteoric rise in stature in 2017.
The Year 13 at Christchurch Boys’ High School appeared to have lost his passion for sport at the start of the year, but is now a contender for the New Zealand Schools.
“I committed to cricket and made the First XI, but I didn’t enjoy it so I withdrew from it. I regret choosing cricket,” Syme concedes.
Syme wasn’t hopeful of making the First XV given he is typically a first-five and the established Alex Hartford returned to school. However social rugby provided little stimulation.
“I wanted competitive rugby so I eventually decided to trial for the firsts and made the seconds. We took a couple of games to get our patterns, but we got on a roll and I enjoyed it,” Syme reveals.
When Syme was promoted to the First XV to cover injury, the second XV suffered. In their first match against High School Old Boys’, Christchurch was beaten 8-40 without Syme. When he returned Christchurch won 19-18.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest Syme is worth 36 points, but he has made a telling difference covering fullback for the First XV.
In a traditional fixture against St. Andrew’s College, Syme produced a star turn.
“We were down 23-15 with five minutes to go. Alex Hartford kicked a penalty to make it 23-18. In the last minute, we had the ball on our 10-metre line. I took an offload from Campbell Reid which put me in a gap. I managed to beat the fullback and score under the posts. Alex kicked the conversion and we won the game.”
Syme also played in the narrow 13-11 win over Moascar Cup holders Nelson College.
“It’s a pretty tough competition with little between the top four teams. Nelson are dangerous especially if they get the ball to Leicester Faingaanuku. He is pretty hard to tackle,” Syme believes.
The performance which catapulted Syme to rep status was his display against Rangiora High School, though Syme is humble about his efforts.
“The selectors turned up to the Rangiora game which went pretty well in the first-half. I made a couple of early breaks which felt good. In the second half, I don’t think I touched the ball.”
Syme wasn’t originally selected in the Crusaders camp, but an injury to Christ’s Levi Emery saw Syme called into the roster last Monday, the halfway point of the four-day gathering.
On Tuesday night at Rugby Park the 60 players were divided into two squads for a match. Syme scored two tries.
“The trial game was played over three thirds of 20 minutes. It was good to get a couple of tries and get noticed,” Syme enthused.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders their trip to Wellington to tackle the Hurricanes Under-18’s wasn’t a success. The Crusaders were beaten 25-10, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Syme.
“The ball didn’t go my way which was annoying, but we were competitive. In the second-half we didn’t execute a couple of things which was costly. If we had I believe we could have won,” Syme asserts.
This Saturday Syme will have another opportunity to impress a larger audience when Christchurch Boys’ plays St. Bede’s College on Land Rover First XV rugby. Christchurch are warm favourites to win the long-time traditional given St. Bede’s have only won twice in the UC Championship this season. However, Syme is taking nothing for granted.
“St. Bede’s have had a tough season, but like the College game they will get up for it. It’s on TV so we can’t afford take them lightly.”
Christchurch Boys’ High School v St. Bede’s College kicks-off at 2:45pm on Saturday on Land Rover First XV Rugby.