Vakatini – captain of the King’s top side – says he was “delighted and proud” with his team’s 29-22 performance against St Kentigern College on Eden Park to turn around a heart breaking loss last year.
The last time King’s College was the Auckland 1A Champion was back in 2005.
“A privilege that I will never forget is being given the opportunity to captain the 2019 Kings 1st XV,” he says.
“It’s awesome to be in front of the home crowd just hearing a different sound to last year”.
He feels a lot of pride in representing his school: “I’m proud of the boys. We have put in a lot of effort this year.”
Last year Kings college just missed out in the final against St Peters college, by one point.
“So, to be able to hold the cup in the air to the team, seeing the big smiles on their faces definitely put a smile to mine.”
He felt very proud to represent his family and country, captaining the Kings 1st XV side in the final.
Growing up on Rarotonga Vakatini didn’t play much rugby as his family is strongly involved on the tennis scene.
However, making the choice to have a go at rugby at Kings College in New Zealand is one of the best decisions he’s made.
The experience has opened up new friendships and connections and he has forged solid relationships with the players in the team and the opposing sides.
As a student at Kings College, he has learnt some kind of independence, stepping out of his comfort zone and trying out many things that King’s has to offer.
Vakatinis family from Rarotonga travelled to New Zealand to watch the final.
Understanding they are not always able to attend every game, he was appreciative and humbled, “when my family can be at the games, it means a lot to me.”
His mother Tanya Savage, his “number one fan”, flew to Auckland to watch the semi-finals against Auckland Boys Grammar on August 17, staying on to be at the final match a week later with her daughter Tatyana, and Leandro’s guardians Chris and Helen Wong.
“It was fantastic, I felt so proud, it was great to have our family here to watch and celebrate,” she said.
She acknowledges his captaincy is a huge responsibility.
As mothers do, she said she had been “discretely bugging” her son during the season to lead the team to make “that difference” and win the coveted trophy.
A few days before game, he said: “Mum, can you give me a break. I’m also getting a lot of pressure from all the teachers.
“Well, Leandro sure made that difference. He led his team with great pride and passion, and to win the finals was absolutely amazing. I’m still beaming over it,” Savage says.
Vakatini’s father Phillip and grandfather Vakatini Joe Ariki also travelled from Rarotonga to be at Eden Park for the game.
This year Vakatini received a rugby scholarship at Kings College and on August 1 he signed a two-year contract with Auckland Rugby to join the High Performance Academy that starts on November 1.