Fiji Rugby’s Rising Star: Know Our Future No. 10

The first five eighth has been one of the standout players for the Swire Shipping Fiji Warriors in the 2019 World Rugby Pacific Challenge.
15 Mar 2019 14:37
Fiji Rugby’s Rising Star: Know Our Future No. 10
Swire Shipping Fiji Warriors first five eight Caleb Muntz in Albert Park, Suva on March 14, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Fiji rugby’s latest rising star, Caleb Rava Muntz, has set his sights on playing for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians after rising up the ranks with the Under-20s last year.

The first five eighth has been one of the standout players for the Swire Shipping Fiji Warriors in the 2019 World Rugby Pacific Challenge.

Muntz was influential in the Fijians’ 56-14 victory over Tonga A last Friday, drawing praise from team captain and FRU’s 2018 player of the year Frank Lomani.

He was at it again on Tuesday, helping the Warriors demolish a strong Junior Japan side 66-24 at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

The 19-year-old’s eye-catching technical ability and good positional sense has gained him the trust of Warriors’ coach Senirusi Seruvakula.

And he has no intention of stopping there.

Muntz’s ultimate goal is to represent the Flying Fi­jians – “and hopefully get one over on the All Blacks some day.”

“Right now, it’s all about doing well in the Pacific Challenge and that’s where my focus is at the mo­ment,” he said.

“I head straight back to the Fiji U20s after this to prepare for the Junior Rugby World Cup in June, which is a really big deal. Fiji hasn’t played in this competition for a while so we will be working hard to put in a good performance.”

Muntz admits the Rugby World Cup in Japan this September has also been on his mind.

“I’ve discussed it (RWC) with my dad and, obvi­ously, if that opportunity comes I’ll take it with both hands,” he said.

“But there’s a lot on my plate this year and I think it will be unfair to the U20s if I’m thinking about the World Cup too much.

“Hopefully I can perform well enough this year to get the call up, keeping in mind there’s huge compe­tition for places in the team.”

Muntz was born in New Zealand’s North Island town of Huntly but has lived all his life in Hamilton where his rugby career began at the age of four.

His paternal grandmother, Saide Muntz (Picker­ing), hails from Rava in Savusavu; while his banker grandfather, Barry Muntz, played rugby for Lautoka in the 1960s.

He has been called the next hot property in rugby, a label he laughs off.

“I’m pretty grateful to be here in the first place,” Muntz said.

“That people have the confidence in my game is quite humbling but I just want to keep performing and working hard.”

The chance to represent Fiji came in 2017 when Muntz was playing his rugby with the Hamilton Boys High School team.

“We had the World School’s 7s tourna­ment in which New Zealand had a NZ-Fijian team. One of the coaches contacted me after finding out I was eligible to play for that team and put me in,” he said.

“Koli Sewabu, who was coaching the Fijian U20 team at the time, was also there. Half way through the tournament, he asked me if I was keen to play for the U20s and I agreed to join.”

Muntz has since represented Fiji in the 2018 Oce­ania Rugby U20 Championship and the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Romania, which they won last year.

Muntz says the first game he played for Fiji in the Oceania Rugby U20 Champion­ships was a moment he will never forget.

“Playing for the Warriors, too, has been a career-high moment. I’m quite proud to represent Fiji. My family is also very proud, especially my dad,” he said.

“Being from New Zealand – and I’m Maori as well – I never got a chance to get in touch with my Fijian side but coming into it now has been special.”

Fiji Warriors number 10, Caleb Muntz after training at Albert Park on March 14, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Fiji Warriors number 10, Caleb Muntz after training at Albert Park on March 14, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Muntz had a difficult time with the boot against Tonga A, missing two out of two goal attempts.

He improved against Junior Japan (5 out of 6) but feels he still needs to work on the kicking side of his game.

Muntz originally played as a full­back in high school before Sewabu moved him to first five eighth for the Fijian U20s, a position he seems to be excelling in.

“I’m a new first-five so I’m trying to improve my kicking and gen­eral play,” he said.

“There’s obviously a bit of pres­sure during the game but I think the main thing is sticking with the pattern I have devised, which is what I did against Junior Ja­pan.”

Joining a Fijian team after play­ing all his life in New Zealand has also been an enriching experience, the young fly-half says.

His Fiji Warriors teammates no longer call him Caleb, instead iden­tifying him as Kelepi – which is the iTaukei pronunciation of the name.

The team has benefitted from the partnership Muntz and Lomani have formed at the halves, which has allowed the backline to play with a killer instinct.

Wingers Tira Patterson and Ve­ramu Dikidikilati have been the prime beneficiaries, scoring a brace of tries each aginst Tonga A, with Patterson getting three more against Junior Japan.

“Frank’s (Lomani) been a real inspiration for me since I joined the team. He has taken me under his wing and constantly guides me about what it takes to play at the top level,” said.

“He also instils quite a bit of con­fidence in me, being the leader that he is, and trusts me to do what is right on the field.

“There’s also the Savusavu link but the way Frank carries himself and his dedication to the sport is inspiring.”

Playing rugby 7s is also a pros­pect Muntz has considered, saying he would be keen to join the Fijian team if the opportunity ever pre­sented itself.

In the long-term, it’s all about playing the sport he loves, which he wants to do for as long as his body will allow him.

However, Muntz says it is impor­tant to have something to fall back once rugby ends.

“After rugby, I want to get into engineering which is what I’m cur­rently studying at the University of Auckland,” he said.

“Obviously rugby can’t last your entire life so it’s important to have something to fall back on.

“I have thought about other things that I’m passionate about that I would like to pursue and that’s where engineering comes in.”

But for now, Muntz is focussed on excelling in rugby.

There is plenty of scope for him to develop and improve as a player.

And if he can keep his perfor­mances at consistently high level, Fiji will reap the benefits of his po­tential for a long time to come.

-Edited by Osea Bola



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