Taulafo stays positive, shares highs and lows
Sakaria Taulafo’s last game for the Manu Samoa in November 2016 against Canada was the start of a long bout with injury that might have ended his international career.
The 36-year-old prop played for A’ana Chiefs in the 2019 P.P.S. Super 9 competition with a view to making the Manu squad for the Pacific Nations Cup.
That he has not been included.
The most-recent of his 44 international caps (sixth-most ever for Samoa) in November 2016 saw Taulafo, then of French club Stade Francais, injure his thumb, with the injury becoming infected. Then Taulafo’s car was hit by a bus, and he broke his wrist.
“We thought three months and we’ll be back,” he said.
The infection then spread to that broken wrist.
“I ended up not playing for the rest of the season.”
With Taulafo unable to play anyway, the doctor thought it was a good chance to clean his knee out with a surgery ahead of the 2017/2018 season.
“I think they probably overdid it inside the knee,” he said.
Come January 2018, as he was looking to return to the field, Taulafo was called into the coach’s office.
“The coach said to me, maybe you need to start thinking of finishing rugby, it’s time for you to think of your next step. It kinda insulted me.”
Taulafo said he wanted to end his career on his own terms, or be told by the doctor he couldn’t go any longer.
He said his internal drive, and the inspiration provided by his children kept him going.
“They couldn’t stop me coming back to training, turning up to training everyday. Thinking back to leaving Samoa as a kid, rugby was the only reason, rugby is my life.
“I know the career is a short thing, but I still feel like now is not the time.”
Taulafo played for Stade Francais twice before the end of that season, the first game coming after a 14 month layoff.
He and the club parted ways, with Taulafo deciding he would be better off somewhere else.
He said coming off that injury, it was tough to find a job.
“In France they are really strict on the medical.”
Taulafo said he understands.
“At the end of the day it’s a business, you can’t buy a product if you don’t 100% know if it’s going to be good or bad.”
He thought it was time to change.
“I think also I’d been in Paris for five years. I came straight from London after three and a half years in London [with English club Wasps].”
He said spending so much time in two of the biggest cities in the world was a lot, with all the distractions.
“I come from one of the smallest countries in the world, I’m a laid-back guy.
He decided to make the move south to Ceret where his partner is from, signing with third division club Ceret Sportif.
“It’s a small, small city... it’s very simple.”
But even though the rugby was okay, Taulafo decided it wasn’t what he wanted.
He played for Samoa A during the World Rugby Pacific Challenge, then moved back to Samoa for the first time since high school to chase a spot in the Manu Samoa.
Despite missing the cut for the Pacific Nations Cup squad, Taulafo said he is still here for a reason; to give back to local rugby in Samoa.
“Now I have the chance to help these guys, these kids. It warms my heart when I see the young kids having me around.”
He said it’s been emotional being back, seeing the real Manu Samoa fans.
“The old people, outside the village, in Savai’i, in kua. Now there’s so many negative things on the internet and everything.
“Those are the people who sit there and pray, who are always proud no matter what.”
Taulafo has been telling the younger players at Samoa A and the Chiefs to treasure those fans.
“Forget about the rubbish, think about the real people, where we came from. The people that really love you…, when you’re down they pick you up.”
Regarding the future, Taulafo said he feels he has a few years left in professional rugby, and he is in conversations towards joining a team in U.S.A.’s Major League Rugby.
“We haven’t finalised things yet but things look positive.”