New Zealand teams are 8-0 against their Australian counterparts in 2017 and the Hurricanes hope to extend that winning record on Friday night when they host the Waratahs at the Westpac Stadium.
Ngani Laumape is familiar with Aussie adversaries. He played 30 games and scored 11 tries for the Warriors in the NRL. The Warriors are hardly as successful as the Hurricanes. What's the biggest difference between the two clubs?
"I enjoyed my time at the Warriors. They are down at the moment, but they will be back," Laumape responded.
"I learned a lot about mental toughness and preparation playing in the NRL. Guys like Ruben Wiki and Simon Mannering are true professionals. I still watch the boys and cheer them on. Sometimes I miss them too," Laumape continued.
Several teams have missed tackling Laumape when he runs at them this season. The bulldozing second-five has beaten 24 defenders in Super Rugby which is second in the competition. The Hurricanes have scored more tries (38) than any other side.
"I just run hard and try to be the toughest man to tackle. All the midfields are good so my approach doesn't really change," Laumape explains of his combative approach which has troubled all opponents in 2017, especially All Black fullback Ben Smith who was unusually bumped off with distain in the recent clash against the Highlanders.
"I don't remember much of that. All the credit belongs to Jordie Barrett who created the overlap," Laumape humbly reviewed.
Laumape has made a habit of bumping people off for a long time. The son of Tongan parents grew up in Highbury, Palmerston North and made a big impression at Palmerston North Boys' High School.
In 2011 he was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools which included fellow Hurricane Ardie Savea. He scored five tries in one match against Hastings Boys' High School, was a powerhouse in a 24-5 triumph against then World Champions Hamilton Boys' High School and appeared alongside future first class reps Jade Te Rure, Jason Emery, Jackson Hemopo, Jamie Booth and Nick Grogan.
"I really loved my time at Palmy Boys. They helped straighten me out and putting on the white jersey was a proud moment. I made friends for life at Palmy and it helped me in ways I didn't even know at the time," Laumape acclaims.
Local legend has it during a Boys' High bye Laumape, against the will of the school, played an important senior league match for the Feilding Falcons. The Feilding coaches knowing that Laumape would upset the school if he appeared asked the newspaper reporter to change or omit his name from the account of the match. The trouble was Laumape scored two tries.
In 2012 Laumape signed with the Warriors and scored a team leading 16 tries for the Junior team in the NYC. His NRL call up was inventible, but why such a short tenure?
"I had been dreaming of coming back home to play rugby. I was able to add extra dimensions to my skill-set and it was a great set-up to be in at the Warriors, but rugby was always something I had in the back of my mind, “Laumape said.
Laumape played 11 matches for the Hurricanes last year and scored four tries. However Willis Halaholo, now with the Cardiff Blues, was the preferred starter during the finals. Laumape had a storming NPC for Manawatu scoring seven tries in 10 matches and has already crossed the chalk five times in as many matches for the Hurricanes this year.
"Willis and Matt have a lot of experience so it's been great learning from those two. I just take each week as it comes and try to improve," Laumape said.