Let’s get physical

New Sharks signing Daniel Farani is looking forward to the physical confrontation of the Super 14.

Farani was born and schooled in Wellington, New Zealand, but spent time in Samoa as a young child. Describing himself as “a New Zealand born Samoan”, he admits that his Samoan ties are very strong, “both my parents are Samoan and we have a strong sense of cultural values and background.”

Samoans are renowned for their physical attributes. “We enjoy the confrontation; not just that, we enjoy the physical contact,” he told the Sharks website. “It goes back to how we pride ourselves as individuals and the whole ancestry and warrior background, instilled in us and pretty much how we are brought up: to be staunch and to be proud, to stand up for ourselves. Although, on the flip side, we are a quiet people, soft-spoken, no false bravado, but once we get out there on the rugby field, we like to make a statement.”

He acknowledges that there will, most likely, be an expectation of him to live up to, “the reputation that precedes me as a Samoan and if I get the opportunity, I’ll give it a good crack. The people who brought me over have seen something, and I will be looking to repay their faith in me.”

He lists amongst his rugby heroes Zinzan Brooke, Buck Shelford and Michael Jones: “people who I looked up to and who inspired me. There is an obvious affinity with Michael Jones because is a Samoan, and the national coach now. Growing up, those guys embodied how I wanted to play rugby, especially Zinzan Brooke, for the skill factor, not just crash and bash, but to use the ball.”

Daniel was a member of the Samoan end of year touring squad last year, starting all six matches. “It was a tough tour,” he admits, “because we didn’t have a lot of time together. We came together for a training camp a week before playing Scotland, so the preparation wasn’t ideal, and because of money restraints we couldn’t call in a lot of players. The squad numbered only 30, plus we had midweek games, so it was a tough tour, but very enjoyable.”

Although Samoan, Daniel was a part of the New Zealand Academy, groomed for bigger and better things (All Blacks). This is a hot topic of conversation, the apparent drain of Pacific Island players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to play in, and eventually represent New Zealand at rugby.

“Playing for the top nations is always going to be appealing for any player really,” he reasons. “It isn’t only about money – although that will always be taken into account – but playing at the highest level. Teams like the All Blacks are number one in the world, and they are number one for a reason, so it isn’t just a Samoan or Tongan or Fijian thing, it’s an individual thing: we just want to play for the best, and the reality is that New Zealand are the best at the moment.

“But I love playing for Manu [Samoa] and that’s where my allegiance lies. It doesn’t matter how long you live in New Zealand, deep down in my parents’ hearts, Samoa is where their pride and feelings are, and obviously they would be just as proud if I played for NZ. But it means a lot to them that I am playing for Samoa.”

Although he has played a lot of his rugby in the UK, he finds the local conditions better suited to his style of play: “I am a bit more of a running, ball-in-hand loose-forward. I’ve played a lot of sevens and I like to think I could offer more in terms of vision and distribution skills

“In the northern hemisphere, the game is more forward-orientated, because the weather dictates how you play. I don’t believe the skill factor is as high as in the South, the training here is more about playing what is in front of you as opposed to sticking to a game plan for the full 80 minutes and which you don’t waiver from at all. Decision-making is pretty much taken away in England.”

Bob Russell, the Sharks masseuse, describes the big Samoan as “hard as steel”. He compares him to centre Andre Snyman who played for the Sharks and Springboks and now plays in the UK. “Andre is the only other player I have ever encountered with the same kind of muscle structure,” he explains. “When you touch a relaxed muscle in his arm for example, it feels like steel.”

Daniel will certainly add an element of physicality to the Sharks: “If you run at me, I am going to hit you as hard as I can, I love a tackle as much as anyone else does.”

Describing the weather as “absolutely awesome” and the people “amazing” he admits that he has been fortunate enough to make contact with some people “who have made mine and my partner’s time here very enjoyable, so it’s been great, lovely.”

Outside of rugby, Daniel enjoys sports and spending time with family or socialising with friends. “I want to try and make the most of the wildlife here, check out some of the game reserves, see some of the animals we don’t get an opportunity to see in New Zealand and even Samoa, and obviously there is nothing in England.”

Daniel cuts to the chase when it comes to this season: “The plan is a given – to win. Once we have established a winning plan, I think the players in the squad are more than capable of winning by playing a winning brand of rugby. It’s a matter of fine-tuning a couple of things, the skill levels are pretty hot, and looking at the boys, everyone is fit and having a good time even though it’s a lot of hard work. When you work hard and still manage to have a smile afterwards, those are positive signs.”

- This article first appeared on the Sharks website – sharksrugby.co.za