There are certain areas of study that when deciding on a destination – all fingers point to New Zealand. Biology is one. Geology and geography are a couple more. But nothing brings NZ to mind more one particular sport – rugby.
The team from Peterhouse Boys school in Zimbabwe knew this, and paid a visit to the rugby nation of the world in August of 2016. Haka Educational Tours was happy to host them, and our very first rugby-focused tour was a huge success!
First stop, Auckland. After disembarking at the international terminal, the boys were picked up and chauffeured to the Haka Lodge in the CBD. With little left of the day, there wasn’t much to do besides settling into their dorm room. Haka Lodge Auckland has a spacious 21-bed open plan space on the bottom level, which the team had all to themselves.
After waking up on their first morning in New Zealand (and after the boys whipped up a breakfast for themselves), they headed to the impressive Eden Park stadium. Here the team had the chance to go behind the scenes and explore the changing rooms and coaches box of the famous hallowed grounds. Despite having not even been in the country for 24 hours, Peterhouse Boys had already gone where many would only dream of seeing!
Now with an extra boost of inspiration, it was time for their first training session at local school St Peters – who the following day would become the opposition for the boys’ first game in New Zealand.
Nothing like a bit of sunshine to put the boys in good spirits. Despite a week of poor weather, match day happened to be picture-perfect. If the weather didn’t elevate moods, then elevating the boys would have done the trick. The morning was spent up Auckland’s Sky Tower where views of the city and harbour sprawled out below under a clear blue sky was something else.
And let the game begin! After a tough match with ups and downs from both sides, Peterhouse came out on top 20-18. It was the perfect way to motivate the boys for the rest of the tour, with the score close enough to keep the team humble. There were even a huge number of unexpected spectators, as schoolboys from St Peter’s came out after a day of lessons to support their home team.
Time to leave the big smoke! The boys headed south with their guide for the 3-hour drive to Matamata – home to the famous Hobbiton. Shots in front of the small round doors and a refresher (non-alcoholic of course) at the Hobbiton pub was a necessity. What is a trip to NZ without some Lord of the Rings sightseeing after all?
Cue the journey to nearby Rotorua – the stinky capital of NZ. Known for its “peculiar” sulphur aromas and exuberant geothermal activity. This was the location for a visit to the Mitai Maori Village. Here, the boys got to take in performances and engage in activities traditional to the Maori culture (think the Haka, a delicious Hangi, Ta Moko (tattoo) demonstrations, poi dances, and more).
Following this, the team found themselves hurtling down the side of Mt Ngongotaha on the luge. For those not familiar with the Luge, you’re perched on the back of a cart with alarmingly simple control capabilities. Brake, don’t brake, and steer. Simple, but ridiculously fun. The mixture of adrenaline and jaw-dropping views of the city and countryside below make for an incredible experience.
Not to forget their rugby, the boys took part in a training session at the New Zealand Sports Academy by an ex-coach of the Maori All Blacks. It was a great opportunity for the boys to learn more about rugby league and the techniques of a team with a history spanning back to 1888. Topping it off – a Haka lesson. What’s a game of rugby without intimidating the opposition first?
The following day, the team hit the road again en route to Taupo. The first pit stop wasn’t far off though – Wai-o-Tapu is right out of Rotorua and is a definite must see if you’re in the area. This is the best spot to see what the tourist town is known for: the impressive bubbling and radiant geothermal pools. That, and the explosive geysers.
After resting up at Haka Lodge Taupo, it was the perfect opportunity to take to the snow at nearby Mt Ruapehu. Luckily, it was the height of the snow season in NZ. It was also the first time many of the boys had taken part in snow sports of any kind, so it was a wobbly but fantastic experience.
Now it was time to head off to their second game against a kiwi school – this time in Palmerston North. It was the first time Peterhouse Boys had been on the receiving end of a haka before a game. It may have shaken the team slightly, as it was a close battle. By the end of the harrowing match however, the boys came out on top 26-24. That made a 100% victory rate thus far!
Onwards to New Zealand’s cultural hub (and also capital), Wellington! On the way, a stop off to visit the New Zealand Rugby Museum. This attraction is a must-do for a tour of this kind. The boys had the opportunity to be up close to the oldest rugby ball, the oldest All Blacks jersey, the first ‘fern’ and more. It was great for the team to see how NZ treasures the sport of the nation.
After waking up in Welly, it was off to the Rugby House. Here, the boys attended a seminar for the Super Rugby Coaches. Thanks to some chance connections, there was the opportunity for Peterhouse to mix and mingle with the coaches. Although off to an awesome start, the day would only get better from here.
And so began game #3. On the wet muddy field, the boys again faced a haka – this time from the team at Wellington College. Peterhouse fought hard, and with a great try scored early in the game, the boys came out on top with a comfortable 22-13 victory.
It’s all about who you know! Peterhouse were lucky enough to then be ushered off to the Westpac Stadium (or the cake tin, as it’s endearingly nicknamed) to witness the All Blacks Captains Run. This is an opportunity not many get the chance to experience! To top it off, they spoke to the boys in black after the game, and ended up getting a shout-out on the official All Blacks Instagram page!
If the Captains Run was something to witness, the Bledisloe Cup match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies was something else entirely. The following evening, Peterhouse was among the humming crowd cheering as the All Blacks steamed the Australian team coming out with a 29-9 win.
If there was anything to help kick back and relax after the excitement of the Bledisloe game, it was the Interislander ferry ride from Wellington to the port of Picton. As the ship approaches the tip of the South Island, there are incredible views of the sounds all around. It’s the perfect introduction to the arguably more scenic South Island.
Not a far drive from Picton is the seaside town of Kaikoura. Kaikoura is best known among tourists as a prime spot for whale and dolphin spotting. The boys took to the sea and after finding their sea legs, took in the beautiful sights of the marine wildlife in their natural habitat. A truly special experience.
After the boys engaged in some animal spotting, it was off to the final destination of the tour – Christchurch. After the final stretch on the bus, the team had the chance to take in a city still rebuilding and revitalising itself after it was ravaged by the 2011 earthquakes.
At last, it was time for the final game in New Zealand. The opponents were the boys from Christ’s College. With a 80-10 victory, it meant a 100% win rate for Peterhouse Boys, and an incredibly successful tour in the rugby nation of the world.
After a delicious final dinner at the lodge, it was time to hit the hay, and prepare for the flight home the following day.
It was fantastic hosting you, Peterhouse Boys. It was awesome to show you our beautiful country, and further pique your love for our national sport! All the best back in Zimbabwe.