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Bruce Kauika-Petersen bringing experience to Northland

Bruce Kauika-Petersen playing for Northern United against Marist St Pat’s in last year’s Jubilee Cup semi-final. PHOTO: Andy McArthur. 

  • By Steven White

Bruce Kauika-Petersen will be a well-known player amongst the visiting Northland Taniwha squad this Saturday afternoon at Jerry Collins Stadium, having played numerous matches at this venue for various representative teams and for both home club Northern United and Petone in Wellington club rugby.

Kauika-Petersen played 77 combined Premier club rugby games in Wellington for Petone between 2016-18 and Norths between 2019-21 and wore the Wellington Lions jersey five times in NPC matches 2020 and 2021.

He made the move to Northland earlier this year, seeking greater opportunities, one that is paying off for him having featured in Northland’s first two NPC matches this season against Taranaki and Waikato.

First thing’s first, will he be introducing his Cambridge Blues teammates to the local cuisine?

“I will have to leak the secret about Chicken Shack, I don’t think that my mates from Porirua will like that, but everyone’s got to go to Chicken Shack [on Mungavin Avenue] at least once I reckon so that could be a post-match meal.”

Kauika-Petersen came off the bench in his team’s first round match against Taranaki, helping to spoil the Pukekura Park party in a 13-11 win, then started at hooker last Saturday in a 10-16 defeat to defending champions Waikato.

“Northland have had a big re-build from last year, in how they want to approach games and how they want to be perceived. The boys coming in from outside the region understand what the Taniwha are about, what their identity is and we are all trying to put that on to the field.”

“We’re flying under the radar a bit at the moment, but maybe playing our first two games and only letting in two tries might be turning some heads already.”

He’s looking forward to coming to Jerry Collins Stadium. “Apart from the Wairarapa, I see Porirua as my second home. Norths gave me an opportunity and a place to belong. Wellington also gave me my chance in the NPC and to be able to link the two together, with teams that I have played for, is pretty special.”

Playing for Wellington last year at Porirua Park in a non-NPC match against Southland.

Earlier this year, he earned one cap for the Hurricanes, coming off the pine in their 53-12 win over Moana Pasifika at Wellington Stadium.

After previously spending a week in camp and returning home to Northland, he received a second call-up to the Hurricanes squad a fortnight later – and a very late call-up to the playing squad.

“James O’Reilly went down in the warm-up and [assistant coach] Gibbo came up to me and said well done, you have got yourself a shot off the bench in O’Reilly’s place. Once confirmed in the dressing room I had five minutes. So, I rang my mum and I messaged my best mate saying you might want to watch the last half hour of the game as I might get my debut tonight. Starting hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes had a good game and I got called on later in the game.”

He also played some club rugby this season for Waipu – New Zealand’s third oldest club – helping them to the Northland Premier club rugby final which they lost to Mid Northern.


According to this website’s database, Kauika-Petersen played 43 Premier matches for Petone and then 34 for Norths over six seasons.

A highlight for him was his first year at Norths in 2019 – a club he joined in large part because he wanted to make the Wellington 7s team and Norths had a gun squad that would win the American Ambassador’s club rugby 7s series and earn a trip away to Auckland to play in the club nationals.

“We won that tournament and I played for the Wellington 7s team, and later that year we went on to win the Jubilee Cup. Just to be part of that entire year and how Norths put pride in the entire community is a highlight for me.”

“Making my Wellington Lions debut [in 2020 against Bay of Plenty] and then playing in the Jubilee Cup final the next day – that was a big weekend.”

He played the 2019 Jubilee Cup final at blindside flanker, alongside openside flanker Du Plessis Kirifi who will likely be captaining the Lions on Saturday. Norths beat Wainuiomata 25-16. He played the 2020 Jubilee Cup finale at openside flanker. Norths lost to Old Boys University 14-22.

It’s only recently that he’s been a fulltime specialist hooker. “I played loose forward all my life but Darren Larsen, who brought me over to Petone, told me my future was a hooker, that we see your frame bulking up and getting quite big and that’s your future role. I joined Petone and I was one of the fittest players on the park and I was playing like a flanker anyway while playing hooker.

“When I went to Norths, Ethan Robinson-Mate took me under his wing and taught me good techniques on how to scrum and how to throw a dart. It fitted my mould as a player at Norths, I could be the big physical seven and learn how to play hooker on the side.

“When I made my Lions debut it was at hooker and where I had been training with them the whole year, while playing as a flanker for my club and I won the Best & Fairest club player of the year as a seven.”

Kauika-Petersen is a proud Wairarapa College old boy, spending three years fulltime in the First XV and playing almost 90 matches for his school.

Perhaps his best moment was captaining the side to beat Wellington College 27-24 in his final year of school in 2015.

“It was just our first year in the Wellington Premier 1 competition. We were sick of losing and we were like a cornered dog. We came out to play that day. They had the likes of Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Jimmy Hewitt, the Plumtrees and Naitoa Ah Kuoi.

“I tore my PCL in the first 25 minutes of that game and the coach came on and said you’re not right are you? I said no I think I have done my knee. But we were four tries up [Wairarapa College would hold a 20-0 halftime lead] and I knew if I had come off it could have stopped our team’s momentum that day.”

Wairarapa College had earned the right to play in the Wellington Premiership, joining the Wellington competition from the Manawatu one and winning Premier 2 before qualifying for the top grade through grading in 2015. They remain a regular Wellington Premiership side.

Whilst at Wairarapa College, Kauika-Petersen could have moved to a bigger rugby school but stayed true to his roots.

“Coming from Masterton, my mindset was if I can make these Hurricanes camps and representative teams then other kids can do the same and they can see that and that will catch on and become infectious. I was a proud Bush man and then a few years later I am playing with Sam Smith from the Lions, and he is from Wairarapa College and he did the exact same thing. To look back, that is pretty cool for me.”

Playing for Wairarapa College in the 2014 Premier 2 final. Wairarapa lost 15-11 to Tawa College after winning Premier 2 in 2013. They finished sixth (out of eight teams) in their first year in the Premiership 2015, their best year in the top flights was 2018 when they were fifth (out of 10 teams). 

Whilst at school he also played for the Wairarapa-Bush 7s team and also played for the union’s Heartland squad in 2019 – making a Meads semi-final.

“In Heartland rugby you can’t have a championship contending team every year, it takes about three years to build up, and that year I was lucky that was my year. I told my mum I want to play for the Bush at least one year and when I am older my body might not let me, so while I was 20-21 it was a good opportunity.

“It was also a good opportunity to get some quality time as a hooker in a third division national competition.”

Three years and two Covid-disrupted seasons later, Kauika-Petersen is putting all that experience from school, 7s, Heartland, Wellington Lions and Hurricanes rugby to good use in the far north.

The Taniwha are fortunate to have him in their squad.

Wellington Lions v Northland Taniwha, NPC Round 3, Jerry Collins Stadium, Saturday 2.05pm.

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