Samoa has had her fair share of world champions visit during the Festive Season. For one world champion in particular, he said he wished the visit were under better circumstances.
For All Black hard man, Jerome Kaino, his three days in the country was spent being a “taxi driver.”
“This trip was more about my family,” he said. “I was basically the taxi driver because I was driving here and there to get things for the fa’alavelave.”
Kaino was in the country for three days to attend the funeral of his grandmother, Aukusitina Faasavalu Niko Patolo, at Matatufu Lotofaga.
The Samoa Observer caught up with him at the Faleolo International Airport yesterday when he was making his way back to New Zealand.
“It was just a quick trip to come for the family fa’alavelave because my grandmother passed away so I came on Monday and it’s just three days,” he said.
“I was lucky that Tana was able to give me a few days off to come and help out.”
The Tana he is referring to is the first Samoan to captain the All Blacks, Tana Umaga, who has since been appointed coach of the Auckland Blues.
Kaino, a veteran of the Blues, is the Captain of the Super 15 franchise.
Sad that he hasn’t had a lot of time in Samoa this time around, Kaino said he loves coming home whenever he gets the chance.
“I absolutely love being in Samoa,” he said. “Anytime that I can come home and see the family and hang out at a warm weather is great. It’s always good. It was great to be home and seeing the new market (at Fugalei).”
Kaino’s last time in Samoa was the magical moment when Samoa hosted the All Blacks for the first time in July last year.
“That’s a pretty hard trip to forget,” he said.
“I’d like to come back more often but it’s tough because with our rugby schedule, it’s always hard to get a break."
“However, anytime I get the chance to come home it’s always good but this trip, the circumstances were a bit tough."
“I didn’t get to go out much because of our family fa’alavelave.”
But Kaino is no stranger to Samoa.
A couple of years ago, he brought a host of All Blacks to Samoa for his wedding at Aggie Grey’s Beach Resort. Among them were Kieran Reid, Keven Mealamu and a host of other rugby stars.
Should things go according to plan this year, Kaino is pretty keen to bring the family back.
“I have two weeks off for Super Rugby so I’m planning to bring my kids and my family here so they can learn their fa’asamoa and learn their ways,” he said.
“Even my new born as well. Hopefully we’ll have a passport for him and then bring them to see the family and know where they are from."
“For me it’s important to bring my family here because I can teach them the fa’asamoa and everything."
“It’s always good for them to come home and know where I’m from and to see the family but especially to learn about their roots.”
As for the year ahead, Kaino is optimistic.
First on the agenda is teaming up with Umaga to improve the Blues record in the Super 15. Kaino said it’s going to be tough but he is positive that the changes are being made at the right places, which should place the Blues in a good stead to tackle the new year.
“We’ve been working hard and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s been a tough year for me and I was lucky I was successful at the World Cup with the All Blacks. Although I play for the All Blacks, I still feel the support from the Samoan community and the people and that’s something I will never take for granted.”
One of the nicest All Blacks off the field, Kaino is machine on the paddock, having won the World Cup twice with the world’s best rugby team.